How Has Transportation Changed in the Last 100 Years?

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Transportation changed how humans interacted and lived thanks to radical innovations such as the automobile, electric rail cars, airplanes and internal combustion engines, according to the Smithsonian. Suburbs grew, people moved across the world faster and humans became more mobile because of transportation technology.

By 1920, Americans owned eight million vehicles. In 1950, that number was nearly 50 million. In 2000, there were 220 million cars on American roads, more than the number of people 18 or older. In the last 100 years, cars became safer and roads turned from dirt to asphalt or concrete.

Vessels on the ocean got bigger and goods moved faster. Engines ran on steam and coal but then switched to diesel power. Hulls were made of steel instead of wood, which led to increases in ship size. The Panama Canal, finished in 1914, cut down shipping times between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

Commercial airlines expanded rapidly in the 1960s when safety improved and jet engines became the norm. Millions of new passengers were added during this expansion of air travel. By 2000, two million people traveled by air on a daily basis in the United States. Until airplanes took over intercontinental travel in the 1950s, ocean-faring vessels dominated travel between countries.