Was the invention of the motor car good for humankind?
The invention of the internal combustion engine, in which fuel is burned, has had a major effect on humankind. It led to the invention and manufacture of the first motor car (1885), which revolutionized road travel.
Until the arrival of the motor car, road travel was mainly conducted on horseback or in horse-drawn carriages and it was very slow. In the late eighteenth century, steam engines began to be used to power road vehicles, but the venture was not successful as the steam vehicles were heavy and inefficient.
At first, the prices of motor cars were far beyond the reach of the average family. But in 1909, the American car manufacturer Henry Ford launched what was called “a car for the multitude” and this led to the era of popular motoring. Mass production of motor cars reached Europe after World War I and, within a relatively short time, the car became affordable in many countries by all but the poorest families.
Is the car a good thing for humankind? Its invention undoubtedly meant that travel by road became much speedier and more comfortable, and other parts of the country became much more accessible. If people had to get to somewhere relatively far away for some urgent matter, they could do so thanks to the car, and later thanks to the bus.
Travel by car became so speedy and comfortable that people began to indulge in it regularly for pleasure. People would take day trips to the countryside or take longer trips to more distant parts of the country. Thus began an increased interest in the leisure travel market and this interest was later to extend to overseas travel.
All this sounds as though the motor car is an extremely good thing for humankind. However, there is a definite downside to the motor car. In several ways it has proved to be a bad thing for humankind.
Unfortunately, the motor car has turned out to be a potential killer. Of course, it is not the car but the driver in most cases that is the cause of the killing, but that comes to the same thing as far as the victims are concerned. Drivers drive too fast or too carelessly and collide with other cars, causing injury or death to other drivers and passengers, or they knock down innocent pedestrians, also causing injury or death. In most countries, the death toll caused by cars is quite considerable.
Stress is a serious modern condition, leading to both physical and mental illnesses, and the motor car is a known contributor to many people’s high-stress levels. There are so many cars on the roads nowadays that traffic jams are all too common, especially during rush hours. Drivers sit for ages in queues of stationary cars, full of frustration and getting more and more stressed.
By far the biggest disadvantage of the motor car, however, is the damage which it is doing to the environment. The emissions from car engines are a major cause of pollution in the atmosphere.
This has an immediate effect on our health, being thought to be at least a contributory factor in asthma and other respiratory disorders. Even more importantly, it is thought to have a long-term negative effect on the planet, being a contributor to the damage to the ozone layer and to global warming.
The advantages of the motor car to humankind are more immediately obvious than the disadvantages. However, the disadvantages are more serious and more far-reaching.