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Automobility

  • By: Barney Warf
  • In: Encyclopedia of Geography
  • Edited by: Barney Warf
  • Subject:General Geography, Earth & Environmental Science

Automobility refers to the economic, social, and spatial impacts of the automobile. From its modest roots as a “horseless carriage,” a plaything for affluent Europeans, the automobile emerged to become arguably the defining technology of the 20th century. Automobiles encapsulated the era's infatuation with speed and power, epitomized mass mobility, reworked cities and rural areas alike, transformed the lives of millions, if not billions, and dramatically reconfigured the structure and meanings of individual and social time and space.

The origins of the automobile lay in Europe, particularly France (hence the numerous French terms, e.g., chassis, chauffeur). In 1884, Karl Benz built the first self-propelled vehicle in Germany. Early automobiles were fitted with solid rubber tires, which made transport slow and uncomfortable, until 1888, when John ...

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