The invention of trains, airplanes, and automobiles, have all contributed to people enjoying an increased amount of freedom when traveling. In today’s world, we can choose between several travel inventions, all of which add to our freedom of movement.
Cars have become the greatest invention for allowing people the most personal freedom in travel. Synonymous with freedom, cars have given us unparalleled independence, choice, and access to unlimited amenities.
Here are 5 reasons why the car is the top transportation invention when it comes to our freedom of travel.
Top 5 Reasons Why The Invention Of Cars Provided The Greatest Personal Freedom Of Travel
1. Fewer Geographical Limits
Depending of course on the type of vehicle you drive, there are few places we can’t go with our cars.
Even the most basic of cars can perform in and adapt to different climates. If they are equipped with the appropriate tires and engine fluids, cars will face few geographical limitations in all but the most extreme circumstances.
As long as roads are maintained and fuel is available, a typical car can travel as far as there are roads to drive. We are not limited to a specific distance or climate.
For extreme climates or terrain, a more specialized vehicle may be required to push the geographical limits.
With the commercialization of the Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV) in the early 1980s, the average consumer was able to enjoy increased driving freedom.
The higher ground clearance and four-wheel drive capabilities of the SUV allowed people to venture into less explored places, resulting in a new level of adventure for outdoor enthusiasts.
Wikipedia credits the 1984 Jeep Cherokee as the first SUV widely available to the general public. Before this time, these rugged driving options were more limited to military and other specialty uses.
2. Independent Mobility
Cars give us the freedom to move about without relying on others.
When we drive our own vehicles, we are not dependent on the public transportation system or the need to hire a taxi or an Uber driver to get us where we need to go.
Historically, driving and owning a car has been a huge step toward independence for women in particular. Up until the First World War in 1914, and around the time of the suffrage movement, women did not enjoy the same freedom as men when it came to mobility.
Once women started replacing men sent overseas in factories and other roles, their freedom to travel increased with their access to cars.
3. Greater Access to Jobs and Amenities
One of the greatest impacts that cars had on society was the increase in access to jobs and amenities.
According to this article from The Atlantic, families that own cars have more access to more affluent neighborhoods and are more likely to find and retain employment.
A large number of jobs available to lower-income families are not located within the urban areas where they live and public transportation is not always available.
Cars allow people to greatly broaden their range for employment opportunities, leading to increased financial stability and freedom.
In addition, access to amenities, such as sports or other recreational activities for families, enrich the lives of participants and offer opportunities that would not have otherwise been available.
4. Instant Mobility
For better or worse, patience is not exactly a hallmark of our modern-day society.
Thanks to car ownership, we don’t need to have patience while waiting for transportation. Owning a car means that we don’t have to structure our lives around the schedule of public transportation or wait on a taxi or an Uber driver.
No longer dependent on public transportation or slower, historic methods of transportation like horse-drawn carriages or bicycles, we now enjoy instant mobility.
We have the freedom to travel on a whim whenever and wherever we choose.
5. Increased Options and Time for Leisure
Perhaps one of the biggest impacts that cars have had on society is the increase in time and availability of leisure activities.
The car has allowed us to save significant amounts of time when it comes to travel. Unlike in pre-car times, we don’t have to spend large amounts of time on public transit, cycling, or even walking to where we need to go.
Owning a car meant that people now had the time and freedom to visit suburban bowling alleys, lake-side camp-grounds, and go on out-of-state road trips.
Since the onset of individual car ownership, businesses catering specifically to the leisure activities of drivers have sprung up all over North America.
The first “Motor-Inn” was built in 1925, by an architect and developer named Arthur Heineman.
With more car owners on the roads, he saw a business opportunity and built the Milestone Mo-Tel Inn in San Luis Obispo, California.
Accommodating up to 160 guests, this motel was quite luxurious at $1.25 USD per night ($20.27 USD in 2022 accounting for the cumulative rate of inflation over this time period) for the use of a private bungalow and garage.
The rooms had central heating, carpeting, and space for chauffeurs if needed. Guests were free to enjoy this new type of “home away from home”, all thanks to car ownership.
Will Future Developments in Automobile Technology Increase Our Freedom of Travel?
With the rising cost of gasoline and concerns over the environmental impact of fuel usage, many are starting to see car ownership as more of a hindrance than a means to freedom.
The auto industry is working to develop future technology that will increase our freedom of travel. This technology will be in the areas of communication and monitoring and will address driver safety, convenience, and ultimately freedom.
Here are five advances that we are likely to see in future cars
- Car-to-Car Communication
Without the driver’s knowledge, their car may be communicating electronically with other cars on the road.
They will be sharing information on weather and road conditions, accidents, or other possible disruptions in the vicinity.
Drivers will no longer be burdened with the task of assessing possible dangers or interruptions to their travel.
- Use of Wearable Technology
The auto industry is looking for additional ways to use the smartwatch (and other wearable technology) as a way to communicate with our cars.
People can now download an app on their smartwatch that allows them to unlock their cars but companies are developing future innovations that will include additional functions.
Garmin, for example, is a global OEM supplier of integrated digital solutions for the automotive industry. They provide technology that allows drivers to access maps, contactless payment, smart keys, and biometrics connected to the vehicle.
The biometrics aspect is particularly interesting, as the device will communicate driver health information with the vehicle which will then make adjustments for the comfort and safety of the driver.
Wearable technology will also allow for voice recognition as a means to start or unlock your car remotely.
- Gesture Recognition
In response to car accidents caused by distracted driving, automotive innovators are integrating gesture recognition into new vehicles.
These touchless systems will erase the need to look for and touch controls within the car. Drivers will be able to use specific hand motions to control functions such as radio volume, temperature settings, and windows.
Automotive gesture recognition will also likely be paired with voice recognition, allowing drivers to truly keep their eyes on the road at all times.
- Shape-Changing Technology
Although primarily military-focused at the moment, shape-changing technology could mean big innovations for the future of the off-roading market.
Carnegie Mellon University’s National Robotics Engineering Center (NREC) has developed wheels that transform into tracks while the vehicle is in motion.
This invention will allow vehicles to navigate difficult terrain at faster speeds than in the past.
In addition to military use, this technology can be used industries such as construction or forestry and perhaps one day for off-road adventures of the leisurely sort.
- Driver Health Monitoring
Monitoring the health of drivers also appears to be on the horizon of automotive innovation.
Through the use of biometrics, vital health information will be collected through contact with sensors in seatbelts and steering wheels.
Cars will be capable of recognizing heartbeats, retina scans, eye movement, brain waves, and fatigue levels.
If a medical emergency is detected by the biometric system, the car will be programmed to pull over and contact help to preserve the safety of the driver.
How Would our Lives be Different Without Cars?
Cars have brought us geographical, financial, and leisure opportunities. These opportunities have allowed people to experience a degree of freedom never enjoyed previous to the invention of the automobile.
Our lives without cars would be much different from what we know today. Most of us would live in condensed urban areas, most likely in high rises, and would rely on inner-city public transport to access employment, educational, and leisure opportunities.
We would feel less of an environmental burden without cars and might enjoy a quieter lifestyle. We may also become more fit, as walking and biking would probably become more commonplace.
The trade-off of course would be a dependency on others to take us where we need to go, and we may experience limitations on our opportunities and experiences.
For better or worse, there is no denying that the car has made a huge impact on our society and has given us the greatest of personal travel freedom.