Automobiles and Our Anxiety

Whether it’s a sports car, luxury sedan or family-oriented SUV, automobiles are our number one source of mobility, delivering us to work, school, leisure activities and the shops almost three trillion miles (five trillion kilometres) a year. But they are also a symbol of our anxieties and fears. In a world where political unrest and terror is growing, we seek security in our cars and their systems. We entrust our lives to them and expect them to be more reliable, safer and more environmentally friendly than ever before.

The scientific and technological building blocks of the modern automobile date back several hundred years to the late 1600s, when Dutch scientist Christiaan Huygens developed a type of internal combustion engine sparked by gunpowder. By 1900, the first commercially successful vehicles used steam, electric power or gasoline as fuel. These early machines were bulky and expensive, with limited range and recharging stations difficult to find.

In the early 1920s, American inventor Alfred P. Sloan introduced the concept of a car company producing different brands under one roof, to allow customers to “move up” as their financial status improved. Since then, engineers have strived to create better-performing automobiles while improving passenger comfort and safety features.

Today, we live in a world where the cars that we drive are objectively better than their predecessors. New models are faster, handle better, keep occupants safe and are more environmentally friendly. But they’re also more costly and less affordable than ever before, thanks to ever-increasing labor and materials costs.

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