It’s difficult to imagine a world without automotive transport. We are surrounded by the internal combustion engine; it has driven a revolution in mobility that has transformed how we live and the appearance of our cities. This fab interactive infographic tells the story of the big moments and game-changing cars that have defined the journey to today – and what will shape the road ahead.
One way or another?
There was a moment in time when the story of motoring could have headed in a totally different direction. Much of the early motoring buzz was around the potential of electric cars; in the US alone, 30,000 such vehicles were on the roads by 1900. Even earlier, steam and hydrogen-powered alternatives were also widely trailed and tested. If any of these solutions had caught on, the world of transport might have been a very different place.
But petrol power won the race for early dominance. In 1885, the Benz Motorwagen was the first car to make it to production. Cars remained the preserve of the super wealthy until the post-war boom of mass production in the 1920s. The Ford Model T is widely regarded as the breakthrough – the first truly ‘popular’ car, available to all.
From there, the spread of motor vehicles across the world has been as relentless as it has been revolutionary. There are 1.2 billion cars in the world, of which 97.5% are petrol-powered, with the USA leading the way in ownership – with 250 million vehicles on the road. In less than a century, the humble motor vehicle has changed the face of the planet forever – but what does the next century hold for the drivers of tomorrow?
Around the corner
The future of cars is bright but there are challenges on the road ahead. Moving towards a safer and more sustainable version of driving is the global direction of travel. The recent Volkswagen emissions scandal has brought concerns about the impact of driving on the environment back on to the front pages of the world’s media. But, in the light of these environmental costs, how will driving change?
A market transition is looming; global transformation is imminent, and the big brands are already prepared. But there are new names leading the way – rather than established manufacturers or fuel giants, global tech powers like Google are investing heavily in developing driverless technology, while Apple has recognized the potential benefit of a boom for integrated in-car technology.
Driverless cars are central to this idea of change – a more sustainable, efficient and less stressful way to travel which could reduce accidents and transform our towns and cities. Concerns around the capacity of computers to make ethical decisions have not yet been resolved, and there remains a reluctance from many drivers to pass control of the wheel over to the machines.
Tech wizard Elon Musk, CEO of electro-pioneers Tesla, is very clear about how the future will demand radical changes to our day-to-day habits. According to Musk, a driverless car, ten times safer than one driven by a human, is only five years away – and this is a change that is not just desirable, but necessary. “Some people don’t like change,” he says, “but you need to embrace change if the alternative is disaster.”
Ominous words, but there’s a lot to celebrate about the global impact of motoring. The car has been a tool for progress and an enabler of personal freedom across the world – and as technology accelerates, things can only get better.
What do you think the future of motoring holds? Would you trust a driverless car? Let us know!