The automobile is a part of our everyday life. Most people use some type of automobile to get to their daily destinations – whether it be a car, truck, or bus. This is an astonishing fact when you think of the fact that less than 250 years ago, they didn’t even exist.

The modern day automobile is an invention that has evolved across many years due to the genius and creativity of many people. In fact, it has been said that over 100,000 patented ideas work together to make up the modern automobile. So what is the road that this machine has traveled?

The earliest ideas of a motor vehicle have been found in the sketches of both Leonardo da Vinci and Isaac Newton. However, it was until the 1700s that the machine began to be a reality.

The very first self-propelled vehicle was invented in France. In 1769 a mechanic and engineer named Nicolas Joseph Cugnot used a steam engine to power a military tractor. That tractor was then used by the French military to transport their artillery from place to place. This first vehicle, which moved on three wheels, had the power to travel 2 ½ miles per hour and had to stop every 10 to 15 minutes to allow the steam engine to build up power.

Cugnot continued to develop his ideas, but a series of misfortunes (including the first motor vehicle accident) put an eventual stop to his inventions. Several other inventors continued to develop the idea of a steam-powered vehicle, using them in stagecoaches, tractors, and cars. However, in the early 1800s, the attention switched over from steam to electricity.

The early versions of the electrical car were clunky at best. Slow, heavy, and expensive, these cars used batteries that needed consistent recharging. The technology quickly moved over to streetcars and tramways and made room for the type of technology that would quickly dominate the market: gas-powered automobiles.

See next week’s article for part 2.