Evolution of Automobiles

G.M. Nagane, IC HOD,

Automobile Engineering, AISSMS’s Polytechnic



Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot, a French inventor built the first automobile in the world in 1769. It was a steam-powered vehicle capable of human transportation. The model was inspired by a heavy army horse cart which replaced the horse with a third wheel mounted at the front, bearing a steam boiler. It could run around 2 miles per hour or a little more and needed to refuel with woods after every 15 minutes.

William Murdoch, a Scottish engineer, built a working model of a steam carriage in 1784. It was a three-wheeled vehicle in which a boiler was placed between two back wheels with a spirit lamp to heat the water. A tiller was used to turn the smaller front wheel.


Étienne Lenoir around 1860 developed the first commercially successful internal combustion engine. Nicolaus Otto developed the first modern internal combustion engine in 1876. In 1885, Karl Benz invented the first gas-powered car which had three wheels and could carry two people. Later in 1891, gas-powered four-wheelers were invented.

Thanks to Henry Ford for the Model T car which was launched on October 1, 1908. The left-hand drive vehicle used a four-cylinder engine and semi-elliptical leaf springs for the suspension with the enclosed engine and transmission. The invention of the assembly line and mass production of Model T made it affordable for the general population.

The invention of automobile features like safety systems, accessories, engine developments, aerodynamics, and ergonomics took the centre stage in the 20th century. Modern automobiles are equipped with features like GPS, active safety systems, Bluetooth, hard drives, driver assistance, keyless entry systems. The driverless car, which once seemed to be a fiction, is now close to becoming a reality.