The automobile is important because it facilitates transportation, increases interconnectedness between different regions and cities, and aides in the expansion of urban areas. The automobile became prominent in the United States during the 20th century, radically changing American life.
The largest impact of the automobile was to make transportation far easier and more accessible. In the preceding centuries, travel was a difficult prospect, and people’s range of mobility was limited by geography. The advent of the automobile and the modern road system allowed Americans to travel distances that were previously unimaginable.
More accessible transportation had a dramatic impact on American life. Communities became increasingly connected, and the distinction between urban life and rural life began to blur. Previously, the difficulty of travel meant that communities located more than 10 to 15 miles away from a city, railway or major waterway were isolated from society. Increased access to cars made it possible for people to travel easily between the country and the city.
The automobile also led to major expansions within cities themselves. Cities began to move outward as families and businesses moved to the suburbs in search of cheaper and more abundant land. The automobile’s accessibility made it practical to commute further distances into the heart of the city, and people were able to choose where they lived without considering public transportation.