Transportation Deployment Casebook/2018/Automobiles in the United States (1900-2016)

A Qualitative and Quantitative Analysis



The automobile is one of the most important transport modes of to develop in the last 150 years. Today over 1.2 billion vehicles are registered around the world, according to Navigant Research (2018), making it the most popular mode of transport per capita (aside from walking). The gradual implementation of automobiles over the past 100-150 years has had a significant impact on the daily lives of most people. People are now able to live farther from cities and still access the city in a reasonable time. The private transport mode also allows users to have more freedom in regards to route choice and usage times. Therefore, the automobile is one of the most prominent modes of transport and in this paper, the life cycle of the mode will be analysed.

Unlike most other modes, such as planes, trains and boats, cars are primarily designed for use by the private consumer instead of public transport needs. According to Automotive News, about 17.2 million cars and trucks were sold in the US last year. This staggering demand for vehicles breeds significant competition. There are 14 major corporations that dominate the global automobile industry, such as Volkswagen, Toyota, General Motors and Ford. Whilst the vehicles sold all have different specifications in terms of engines, body design and interior, the same foundations are present in each design and have been since their initial employment. The main components are the chassis and body shell, the engine, transmission, suspension, steering, brakes and electrical. Modern vehicles are powered primarily using an internal combustion engine, consuming gasoline or diesel, however, many modern automobiles are also offering electric models or a hybrid system. In the early designs of the automobile steam power was adopted, however, with large engines, limited fuel capacity and slow speeds, the steam was replaced in favour of electric and diesel options, which will be the focus of this report.

Before the Automobile

The birth of the automobile is considered to be in 1886 after Karl Benz designed and built his Benz Patent-Motorwagen. Although, many people would date the actual birth of the modern automobile to 1908 when Ford’s Model T began mass production. These automobiles then quickly overtook many of their competitors that had thrived before. Before the automobile, passenger travel was mainly facilitated by trains, trams (horse-drawn and electric), horses and walking. The train network had boomed over the 19th century and was the primary method of long distance travel and shipping at the time (when not facilitated by oceanic trade). Much of the first world had already developed an extensive rail network that allowed for increased efficiency and connectivity. Trams had also become increasingly popular, more so for the city market. Trams were used to transport commuters from the ‘suburbs’ to the city centre. However, trains and trams had their limitations. They were not flexible. A train or tram line has a fixed route to service passengers along and therefore, demand and population would increase along those routes. This was changed by the introduction of the automobile. This allowed commuters living anywhere in the city and suburbs to travel freely between origins and destinations, without the need for direct public transport links. This was first applied mostly to the city market and as the quality of roads improved so did the patronage of automobiles along those roads. This had a significant impact on the tram industry as they faced substantial levels of pricing regulation the speeds that had previously made the trams so popular were now insignificant to the automobile which could move 40-45% faster (Geels, 2006). Therefore, the tram industry began its decline in track length in 1910.

Methods of private transportation before the advent of automobiles also had some constraints. Horses were often used, often in junction with a wagon or cart. However, horses require high levels of maintenance in terms of feeding, stables and cleaning. Additionally, horses left substantial amounts of waste in the streets of cities, contributing to disease and sickness. Kirsch (1996), suggests that per mile of travel horses would contribute 940 grams of solid and liquid waste whilst automobiles would produce only 5.35 grams of emissions for the same distance. Whilst horses were a relatively fast mode of transport for the time, the duration that they were able to maintain high speeds was limited, so they were generally used more for city and local transport, with trains used for the longer distance travel. Another alternative was the bicycle. Bicycles had been seen in many different iterations throughout the 19th century. However, toward the end of the century the modern design of the bicycle that is seen today became standard. Bicycles have long been used for transportation and still are today, although with much more regulation. The bicycle can in many ways be seen as an important technology that may have inspired the early gas and electric automobiles. In his 1992 book For the Love of the Automobile, Wolfgang Sachs suggests that bicycles garnered the sense of freedom and mobility that was later capitalised upon by automobiles. Early use of bicycles mostly seen as an option for short distance city and local travel. Unlike an automobile, the feasible speed and length of a trip for a bicycle primarily depends on the fitness of the user. Therefore, bicycles were generally not used for long distance trips due to both the time the journey would take and the toll that journey would take on the user. With these limitations on existing transport methods, the invention of the modern automobile allowed for significant change.

The Invention of the Automobile

Compared to many other transport modes, the time from first implementation of the automobile to regular market use was long. Ideas for a steam powered automobile had been considered for much of the 18th century. In 1769 Nicholas-Joseph Cugnot developed a steam powered tricycle that is credited by many as the very first automobile. The vehicle was slow and could only really achieve speeds of 3.6km for 20-minute periods while carrying four people. However, many eager inventors saw the potential of the mode. In 1805, Oliver Evans introduced the ‘Amphibolous’ which was the first automobile in the United States. The vehicle could be used on both the road and the water, surprisingly becoming the world’s first amphibious automobile. Despite the promising signs of the mode, the automobile did not really become a major mode of transport throughout the 19th century. This is in large part due to the restrictions and regulations of the steam technology. Steam powered automobiles required a boiler, which was often large and heavy. Additionally, the early steam units had thermal efficiencies of only about half of a gasoline-powered internal combustion engine. The steam engines also faced significant public opposition and in some areas of the US they were banned because of their speeds, smoke and potential for explosion (Geels, 2006). Therefore, the birthing phase of the automobile can be considered to be over 130 years. The growth of the automobile only really began after the introduction of gasoline and electric propulsion systems.

Gasoline and electric vehicles offered an automobile designed to be lighter and with more power. The initial design is credited to Karl Benz as mentioned earlier. Mass production was popularised by Henry Ford and the Model T in 1908. This allowed more vehicles to be made in a shorter period of time, which greatly increased the rate at which vehicles could be sold, as well as reducing the price to make them more affordable. Hard & Knie (2001) suggest that for a new technology must convince its potential customers that the technology can be easily integrated into their daily lifestyle, and this is exactly what the Model T achieved by producing an affordable and desirable model of the automobile. Many other manufacturers soon followed suit. The main benefit of these gasoline and electric vehicles over the steam powered alternative was that they allowed room for improvements. Where steam power had already reached maturity, gasoline and electric automobiles were only in the birthing stage. In 1900, 28% of the vehicles were electric. Although, as batteries could become flat due to fast charging and the range restrictions without fresh batteries, the gasoline vehicles became the dominant type of automobile. In the past 20 years there has been a resurgence of the electric vehicles as the economies of scale for the technology have become more affordable.

One of the main improvements that gradually made the automobile preferable to many alternatives were the road networks. Early automobiles were used on roads that were not necessarily designed for automobile traffic. However, as the market began to increase, roads where upgraded, paved and extended. The introduction of paved roads designed for traffic only was contradictory to the social culture of the time. Geels (2006) suggests that these roads were seen more as meeting places than as major traffic streams. Therefore, after significant legal changes over the coming years, the idea of the purpose of a road began to evolve and traffic became the primary purpose with sidewalks allowing pedestrian use. This increase in road networks sought to further encourage the demand for the vehicles as they became one of the most flexible methods of transport.

Early Market Development

The early steam powered automobiles were designed primarily as an alternative to wagons as a means of transporting goods. However, as the speeds of the vehicles increased the demand for passenger automobiles also increased. The flexibility of the automobile, in so far as that it is not restricted by a track, meant that people and goods alike could be transported between locations without a direct public transport link. Therefore, many of the earliest automobiles were used as bus and taxi services. Taxis were primarily electric to begin with as the gasoline vehicles struggled with stalling at low speeds, the Eclectic Vehicle Company (EVC) became one of the first cab services in the US. However, issues with battery life and some financial scandals caused the EVC to go bankrupt by 1903, marking the failure of the taxi niche for automobiles (Geels, 2006). As gasoline and electric vehicles overtook their steam counterparts there was a significant increase in patronage. Initially these vehicles were seen as a luxury that only the rich could enjoy. However, with Ford’s introduction of the Model T mass production system, that focussed less on the quality of the vehicles and more on the quantity, the automobile became a cheaper and therefore more commonplace mode of transport.

One of the major early market niches was racing. Official automobile races can be dated back to 1894 with a 199km race from Paris to Rouen. The excitement, speeds and danger of these races encouraged public viewing and they became so popular that racing clubs were established the Us by 1899. The competition in these early races encouraged further development of automobile design and therefore improvements to the speed and power of the vehicle. Vehicles were designed to achieve higher speeds and travel longer distances. According to Geels (2006), these races were important to forming the public opinion about what automobiles could achieve.

Alex Rowland (2009) suggests that the single greatest incentive for innovation is warfare. As is the case with many new technologies, the success of the gasoline automobile saw the technology quickly re-purposed for military use. During the first world war automobiles were crucial to the axis and allied forces. Automobiles could be used to quickly move troops and supplies to the front lines and were also used as armoured vehicles to attack enemy lines with minimal exposure. One example of this is the Rolls Royce Armoured Car, of which 120 were used in the first world war. The car was weighed 4.7 tonnes, had a three-man crew and came equipped with a .303 Vickers machine gun. Similar technologies seen in automobiles were also applied to the first tanks used in WW1. Whilst the military possibilities of automobiles were not the primary functions of the technology, their use in major wars throughout history has often been one of the major deciding factors in the outcome of the war. One of the few benefits of war is in fact the technological breakthroughs it often inspires. This is true for the automobile as the first world war brought about significant improvements to internal combustion engines, making them more powerful and reliable to ensure that a 4.7 tonne Rolls Royce Armoured Car could be utilised effectively. This technology was then able to be adapted to the private commuter automobile post-war.


Early automobile policy largely followed that of pre-existing modes. As the speeds of the early steam automobiles were initially quite slow (less than 10km/h), little changes were made from the regulations that applied to horses, wagons and streetcars. However, as the speeds of the automobile began to increase with the introduction of gasoline and electric vehicles the policy began to adapt. Policy regarding the use of automobiles in the early 20th century can essentially be split into three categories of design policy, road rule policy and safety policy. There were very little design regulations for early vehicle designs. The Model T, of which 15 million were sold between 1908 and 1927, lacked doors, windows and a windshield. This design was essentially that of a horse drawn cart, except with a combustion engine providing the power. There were some restrictions to the design such as the width and height of the vehicle. However, these restrictions were brought about more by ensuring that the vehicles could be used on the current road system than by any legal regulation. The Model T design was essentially forced to follow that of the wagons and carts of the era so that they could be used on roads without any major redesign of the road network. This restriction to width became embedded within the mode as, although modern vehicles are often slightly wider at about 1.8m on average, all vehicles design are restricted by the internationally recognised road widths. As these road designs were largely determined by the width of carts and carriages, this shows the long-term impact of preceding technologies on the dominant technology.

One of the major issues that arose with automobiles in the early 1900s was the safety concerns. Prior to the automobile the speeds that a person could reach using their own private transport were restricted by the available technology. Horses could reach speeds of 40-48 km/h at full gallop. However, as horses were often used in junction with a cart or carriage, were only able to achieve these speeds for short periods of time and would actively avoid collisions, accidents were rarely fatal on city roads. The introduction of the automobile changed this. In 1900 the Mercedes-Simplex could travel 117km/h. Whilst this is not indicative of the average speed of automobiles at the time, it demonstrates the stark increase in speed that people could achieve in their own private vehicle. With these speeds and the fact that the car relied solely on the driver for control, accidents were inevitable. In 1924 there were 20,000 traffic deaths with 26.7 million cars on the road. In 2011 there were 33,000 traffic deaths with 253.6 million cars on the road. Therefore, the ratio of deaths per number of registered vehicles was 5.76 times higher in 1921. This high death rate, for both drivers and passengers, inspired the government to introduce regulatory policy dictating the safety for drivers, passengers and pedestrians.

Wetmore (2009) suggests that the main responsibility for ensuring safety in automobiles prior to 1960 was placed on the driver. In an accident blame would most likely be assigned to the driver, regardless of the automobile conditions or the road conditions. At the time there was little regulation of the safety specifications for vehicles. Although the first seatbelt was patented by Edward J Claghorn in New York in 1885, cars were generally not fitted with them until the 50's and 60's and even then there was little incentive for passengers to wear them. It took until 1968 for the first seat belt law in the US according to the Motor Vehicle Safety Standard. Even in the modern era the law can be surprisingly relaxed in the US. As of 2009 some states do not allow for a police officer to fine a driver for not wearing a seatbelt unless they were initially stopped for another violation. In New Hampshire, there is no law for wearing seatbelts except for those 17 and under. The first state-wide traffic laws were introduced in Connecticut in 1901. The law restricted the speed of automobiles to 12 mph in cities and 15 mph on country roads. In 1910 New York became the first state to introduce drink driving laws and penalties. Despite this early regulation it wasn’t until 1927 that the American Association of State Highway Officials published the Manual and Specifications for the Manufacture, Display and Erection of U.S. Standard Road Markers and Signs. Two documents were authored for both rural and urban roads. These documents laid the foundations for many of the modern regulations that we have today. The modern safety policy is far more regulated today. Current market vehicles must adhere to a large list of airbag, seatbelt and crumple zone specifications, each of which is tested rigorously before the car is brought to market. As a result, the modern vehicles are far safer today than 50 years ago and the accident rate per capita has reduced significantly as specified earlier.


As the automobile became faster, more reliable and cheaper more commuters began to use them as their main method of transport. With more demand for the automobiles, the road network was upgraded to match the demand. An increasing number of roads were paved, and people were able to live further away from the city as the automobile allowed for faster travel and more flexible travel in terms of origin and destination. Intercity travel was prioritised in 1956 when President Eisenhower established the Federal-Aid Highway act of 1956. This act provided a 65,000 km national system of highways that would be constructed of 13 years. This significantly decreased the travel times between major cities and further cemented the automobile as the dominant mode of transport of the century. These improvements to urban roads and highways further encouraged commuters to purchase cars. Therefore, the relationship between the number of registered vehicles in the US and the quality and length of roads can be considered a ‘virtuous’ feedback loop.

As well as the improvements to the road network, there were also significant improvements to the technology of the automobile. Between the 1930s and the 1980s the design of automobiles changed significantly. Manufacturers were in constant competition and so many changes were made during this period to make the automobile more appealing to the consumer, whether it be focussing on a car for the family or improving the speed and aesthetics of the vehicle. In the 1930s the design for cars shifted to a fully enclosed body that also incorporated headlights which allowed for greater use in weather adverse and night conditions. Many vehicles also saw the addition of boot and trunk space for storage, making the automobile more suitable for family use. The 1950s saw an era of improved engine power in the US after General Motors introduced the high-compression V8 engine. Further improvements were seen in the 60s and 70s as independent suspensions, fuel injection and more reliable front and four-wheel drive systems become commonplace. These improvements further stimulated market growth during the period as it became essential for each household to have at least one vehicle, if not more. Automobile manufacturers capitalised on this market demand by releasing yearly models for their most popular vehicles. This encouraged the ‘upgrade’ mentality, which required consumers to have the latest model, an ideal that is still present today.

As the technology for automobiles expanded, this car manufacturers and business to adapt the automobile to service a more niche market, or a new market entirely. To service the off-road market, vehicles like Jeeps became available to the market. The technology for these vehicles stemmed from the Second World War where jeeps, halftracks, armoured cars and utility vehicles were mass produced and were crucial to the allied success in the war. The improvements to power of larger vehicles during the war was crucial as heavier lorries became an important part of the United States shipping network. Another secondary market for automobiles was entertainment, particularly racing. Demonstrations of vehicle speeds gathered large crowds and therefore in 1948 NASCAR was founded. In junction with television broadcasting NASCAR and similar racing events gathered large crowds, encouraging business advertisement. The NASCAR industry attracts about $3 billion in sponsorship money alone in the modern day. Similar competitions and revenue can be seen in other forms of racing as well, such as Formula One, Rally and IndyCar, although these are not exclusively American competitions. Therefore, it is clear that the use of the automobile is driven not only by the desires of the consumer but also by the opportunities for profit identified by businesses and manufacturers.


The data seen in the Quantitative section suggests that the automobile is currently transitioning to the maturity phase. Whilst it is likely that the mode will continue to grow due to a rising population, it is unlikely that there are many new markets remaining that are affordable for manufacturers given the current technology. Whilst some developments are being made into autonomous vehicles, these would still be gasoline and electric powered and still require registration. Therefore, the automobile has shifted from focusing on the growth of the mode to focusing on management. The main challenge faced by automobile manufacturers today is not convincing people to purchase a car but convincing people to purchase their car. The world's major automobile manufacturers now release yearly models of their most popular vehicles, with each type of vehicle aimed at servicing a different demographic of customer. Previously, advertisements would focus on the performance of the car in terms of speed, safety and reliability. However, as the performance of vehicles is not as significant as it once was for any given price range and safety standards have become almost identical for each vehicle due to significant regulation, recent advertisements have shifted to a focus on technology. In 2016, Mazda released and add for its Mazda 3 that focused on its new touch technology in the Mazda 3 and in the following year, one of its most significant competitors, the Toyota Corolla, released an add that highlighted the vehicles heads up display and integrated sound system. Therefore, it is clear that in order to maintain market dominance in a maturing market, manufacturers have shifted selling focus to more niche features.

One method of reinventing the market is through the introduction of Autonomous Vehicles. Many different companies have begun road testing these vehicles such as Google, Uber and Tesla. Autonomous vehicles offer an opportunity to reduce accidents, provide a more efficient transport network and provide additional mobility for those who cannot use a conventional vehicle. However, despite these advantages, there are many issues present that will likely mean that autonomous vehicles wont be seen in widespread use for quite some time. Fagnant and Kockelman (2015), suggest there are three main reasons why autonomous vehicles will find it difficult to break through in the current market; the cost of the vehicles will be quite high to justify the expense made in developing the technology, there are significant legal questions concerning liability, insurance and licensing and public opinion toward the vehicles is mixed as many commuters are nervous at the thought of not being in control of the vehicle. Therefore, although the technology would revolutionise modern automobile travel, it will likely be some time before it breaks into the current market.



For the majority of transport modes, the life cycle can be split into three phases; birth, growth and maturity. The birthing stage is generally at the advent of the technology, when many people prefer to stay with pre-existing technologies that are more familiar. However, early developments in the technology generally have significant impacts the economies of scale of the mode. This makes the mode more affordable or practically inspiring growth. As the transport mode continues to develop, eventually technological advancements will incur significant costs that do not necessarily have as significant impact on the economies of scale as they once had. When this occurs, the mode has most likely entered its mature phase. During this phase, the focus is shifted from the growth of the mode to the management of the mode. These phases can be represented by a traditional logistic curve, or ‘S-curve’. Using a set of data that indicates the level of deployment for the mode, a three-parameter logistic function was made.

The Logistic Formula:

The Logistic Formula


·       S(t) is a measure of the transportation system at a given time (Number of registered vehicles)

·       t is time (years)

·       t0 is the time when S(t) is at the inflection point of the S-curve (years)

·       K is the maximum capacity of the transportation system (Number of registered vehicles)

·       b is a coefficient that affects how quickly a system reaches maturity

A single variable linear regression was applied to determine the most probable value for maximum capacity (k) and to determine the coefficients b and t0 from this dataset. The linear regression model was in the form;

Where Y is LN(RegisteredVehicles/(K-RegisteredVehicles)) and X is the year for this dataset. This calculation was done for each year in the dataset for a range of estimated K values. Once the value of K, b and t0 were determined these values were subbed into the model to produce a range of predicted values at each year according to the S-curve for the mode.

The Model

The dataset used was the a measure of the number of the registered vehicles between 1900 and 1995. These values were obtained from the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Association. The document provided the combined number of registered vehicles for all states. The dataset was limited in so far as it only provided data up until 1995. Data for recent years (1995-2016) were found from individual reports on the Federal Highway Association website. These values for registered vehicle numbers provided only the total number of registered vehicles and not the number of automobiles specifically. However, it can be assumed that demand for the automobile would rise at similar rates to that of trucks and buses. Table 1 (shown below after explaining the model) outlines the recorded and modelled number of vehicles in the United States during this time period. However, before using the aforementioned method to determine a model for this data it is important to analyse the data and identify and key trends or significant events. Figure 1 below shows the increase in registered vehicles over time.

Figure 1: The increase in vehicle registration numbers between 1900 and 2016.

This graph shows that the initial deployment was slow relative to the number of vehicles registered today. Despite growth in the 1920s, the number of vehicles stagnates between 1930 and 1947. This could be attributed to two major world events. The first is the great depression in the 1930s. Between 1929 and 1930 the worldwide GDP fell by 15%, causing serious economic struggles for many American citizens. This would have had a significant impact on both the ability for manufacturers of automobiles to produce vehicles and the ability for consumers to purchase them. The second is the second world war between 1939 and 1940. Whilst the war may have encouraged growth in technology for the mode, the war took priority when it came to manufacturing so less automobiles were produced. Furthermore, 16.1 million Americans served in WWII, which reduced the available market to sell to. After this time period the growth remained relatively steady until a slight drop in growth in recent years. The drop is most noticeable in 2008-10 which could again be due financial constraints brought on by the Global Financial Crisis in 2008.

To determine the most appropriate value of saturation (K) for this model, a linear regression analysis was performed. After performing the linear regression analysis according to the above method for multiple values of K, where each tested K was increased by 25,000,000 registered vehicles, the value for K with the value for R squared closest to 1.0 was 300,000,000 (R2 = 0.8447). This indicates that this value for saturation has the best fit for the S-curve. For this value of K, the value for b was determined to be 0.07656 and t0 to be 1979.85. When applying these values to the Logistic Formula the following model was produced, as seen in Figure 2.

Figure 2: Initial Model for the Number of Registered Vehicles in the U.S. from 1900-2016

From visual inspection, it is clear that this model does not accurately represent the data. There are areas of significant underestimation and overestimation either side of the inflection point. Therefore, to identify why the model was not accurate a the values of the linear regression analysis were plotted, as seen in Figure 3 below.

Figure 3: Regression analysis for K=300,000,000

When looking at this set for linear regression at K=300,000,000, it is clear that the data is skewed by large negative values during the birthing phase. This is likely due to the significant disparity in registration numbers between the initial deployment statistics and the current value as since 1900 the vehicle registrations have increased by a factor of 32,951. Therefore, these low initial deployment values are skewing the data significantly and could explain the lack of authenticity between the initial model and the actual deployment. To remedy this the process was repeated using only data from 1910 onwards, to reduce the amount of negative values altering the model authenticity. As can be seen in Figure 1, the change in registered vehicle numbers between 1900-1915 is insignificant compared to the scale of the whole dataset. Therefore, removing these first 10 years of data will likely improve model accuracy without compromising the authenticity of the model. Figure 3 below demonstrates the readjusted linear regression curve, clearly demonstrating a better fit to the model.

Figure 4: Adjusted regression analysis for K=300,000,000

As this regression analysis, excluding data from 1900-1910 is a far better fit to the linear regression analysis, the values for b and t0 were calculated again and found to be 0.06029 and 1980.07 respectively. Therefore, a new model could be plotted, as seen in Figure 5 below.

Figure 5: Adjusted Model for the Number of Registered Vehicles in the U.S. from 1900-2016

This adjusted model in Figure 4 is clearly a better fit in terms of the accuracy between the predicted number of registered vehicles and the actual number of registered vehicles. The S curve can be split into three distinct sections of birthing, growth and maturity. The birthing phase is from 1900-1945, the growth phase is from 1940-2005 and the maturity phase is from 2005-present. The model suggests that the maturity phase is only starting to set in recently as the predicted saturation of vehicles is 300,000,000 and the current value is closer to 260,000,000. According to the model the mode should approach saturation by 2050 where it may be replaced by autonomous vehicles or a new innovative mode of transport. Table 1 below shows the actual and predicted numbers of registered automobiles in the US between 1900 and 2016.

Table 1: Recorded and Predicted Numbers of Registered Vehicles from 1900-2016
Year Registered Vehicles (US) Predicted Registered Vehicles (US)
1900 8000 2384493
1901 14800 2531414
1902 23000 2687306
1903 32920 2852706
1904 55290 3028183
1905 78800 3214337
1906 108100 3411803
1907 143200 3621252
1908 198400 3843392
1909 312000 4078972
1910 468500 4328780
1911 639500 4593650
1912 944000 4874459
1913 1258060 5172134
1914 1763018 5487650
1915 2490932 5822032
1916 3617937 6176363
1917 5118525 6551778
1918 6160448 6949472
1919 7576888 7370699
1920 9239161 7816778
1921 10493666 8289088
1922 12273599 8789079
1923 15102105 9318265
1924 17612940 9878232
1925 20068543 10470637
1926 22200150 11097211
1927 23303470 11759756
1928 24688631 12460152
1929 26704825 13200352
1930 26749853 13982386
1931 26093968 14808358
1932 24391000 15680447
1933 24159203 16600906
1934 25261710 17572057
1935 26546126 18596292
1936 28506891 19676068
1937 30058892 20813903
1938 29813718 22012370
1939 31009927 23274093
1940 32453233 24601736
1941 34894134 25997997
1942 33003656 27465599
1943 30888134 29007278
1944 30479306 30625769
1945 31035420 32323794
1946 34373002 34104045
1947 37841498 35969169
1948 41085531 37921748
1949 44690296 39964279
1950 49161691 42099152
1951 51912755 44328627
1952 53262418 46654812
1953 56217433 49079632
1954 58505361 51604809
1955 62688792 54231827
1956 65148277 56961909
1957 67124904 59795989
1958 68296594 62734677
1959 71354420 65778239
1960 73857768 68926564
1961 75961437 72179139
1962 79150336 75535027
1963 82696732 78992844
1964 86313262 82550737
1965 90357667 86206373
1966 93949852 89956923
1967 96905876 93799057
1968 100898074 97728938
1969 105096369 101742229
1970 108418197 105834096
1971 112986342 109999222
1972 118796671 114231831
1973 125653934 118525707
1974 129933556 122874228
1975 132948709 127270401
1976 138542904 131706906
1977 142092568 136176138
1978 148414612 140670262
1979 151869299 145181265
1980 155796219 149701009
1981 158286415 154221296
1982 159643240 158733924
1983 163749281 163230743
1984 166248816 167703722
1985 171688878 172144997
1986 175700339 176546931
1987 178909773 180902163
1988 184392674 185203654
1989 187356106 189444732
1990 188797914 193619124
1991 188136469 197720995
1992 190362228 201744966
1993 194063482 205686139
1994 198063482 209540109
1995 201530021 213302973
1996 205427210 216971335
1997 210441250 220542300
1998 211580030 224013469
1999 215496000 227382928
2000 220461060 230649230
2001 225821240 233811381
2002 235331380 236868813
2003 234624140 239821364
2004 236760030 242669251
2005 243010550 245413041
2006 247421120 248053626
2007 250844640 250592191
2008 254403080 253030190
2009 255917660 255369314
2010 254212610 257611462
2011 250070050 259758720
2012 253108390 261813329
2013 253639390 263777664
2014 255876820 265654208
2015 260350940 267445533
2016 263610220 269154279

This table, combined with the model in Figure 5, outlines the areas of similarities and differences between the model and the data. The most significant differences in value are seen during the birthing stage. The reason for this is likely due to the significant difference between the values for initial deployment and saturation. As the final values for registered vehicles is in the 100's of millions and the initial values are only in the thousands, there is a huge change in scale that the model fails to capture. The inaccuracy could also be due to the removal of the first 10 years of registered vehicles in the linear regression analysis. However, it should be noted that even in the initial model the modelled value for registered vehicles in the 1900 is off by a factor of 82.8. Therefore, it is clear that the model is not accurate at estimating early birthing phase data due to the differences in scale. Furthermore, there are some inconsistencies in the model between 1910 and 1943. This can be attributed to two factors. The first is the presence of some overestimation as mentioned previously. However, this is likely not as significant in this region as most values after 1918 are in fact underestimated. The second reason is due to the erratic nature of the recorded registration values. The transition between the birthing and growth phase is not as smooth as the model would suggest due to many of the socio-economic factors during this time period (Recession and World Wars). Therefore, there are some inconsistencies in the model for the number of vehicle registrations between 1920 and 1945. Despite this, the rest of the model can be considered mostly accurate, particularly after 1943, where, aside from some differences of up to 14% in the 1950's, the largest change between modelled and recorded values is 6%.


In the last 120 years the automobile has developed into the most utilised mode of transport in the United States. Despite taking a long time to grow initially due to alterations to the city landscape and to urban and rural policy, the automobile has had a huge impact on society and shapes many of the tasks that we perform on a daily basis. However, the mode is currently approaching maturity and the market is more competitive than ever. Therefore, the market choices by manufacturers in the next 10-20 years will be crucial to determining the ongoing success of the mode. With more advanced technology, like autonmous vehicles on the horizon, it will be interesting to see just how manufacturers and consumers react to the inevitable change.


Journal Articles/Government Documents

Fagnant, D. and Kockelman, K. (2015). Preparing a nation for autonomous vehicles: opportunities, barriers and policy recommendations. Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, 77, pp.167-181.

Geels, F. (2005). The dynamics of transitions in socio-technical systems: A multi-level analysis of the transition pathway from horse-drawn carriages to automobiles (1860–1930). Technology Analysis & Strategic Management, 17(4), pp.445-476.

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