Early developments were for vehicles not powered by gasoline:
1600 - The Dutch built sail-mounted carriages which they say raced along at 20 mph, though people complained that travel depended on the whim & direction of the breeze.
1680 - Sir Isaac Newton conceived of a vehicle propelled by a "rear- wardly directed jet of steam," though this concept evolved into rockets not cars
1698 - Thomas Savery, of England, invented the first steam engine, though these were crude, inefficient, and blew up often.
1769 - James Watt, of Scotland, patented a steam engine that became widely used to extract water from British mines, and power mills and factories.
1769 - Nicholas Joseph Cugnot, a French military officer, built a steam-propelled, 3-wheeled artillery wagon, which raced along at 3 mph, though was difficult to control while moving.
1801 - Richard Trevithick, a Cornwall, England engineer, built a road steamer, which two years later had had improved it enough to drive through London with a top speed of 12 mph.
1804 - American road steamers were built by Apollo Kinsley in Connecticut, Nathan Read in Massachusetts, and Oliver Evans in Pennsylvania. Evans built an amphibious vehicle 30 feet long and weighing 15 tons. On land, power was transmitted by belts to wagon wheels, and once in the water powered the stern paddlewheel.
1830s- Britain was developing a network of steam-powered boats & trains for passenger and freight
1831 - Michael Faraday discovered the principles of the induction coil, which converts magnetism into electricity.
1839 - Scotsman Robert Anderson built the first electrically-powered road vehicle, though largerly unsuccessful. By 1880, longer-lasting batteries had evolved but were bulky and needed frequent recharging, but enabled the start of electric cab service in the streets of London by the late 1800s.
1845 - A Scot called Thomson patented a type of pneumatic tire, though John Boyd Dunlop is usually given credit
1850 - A patent for deriving liquid hydrocarbons from coal and shale was granted to James Young of Scotland, which enabled "coal oil" to start competing with whale oil for lamp fuel.
1859 - Edwin L. Drake discovered oil in a 69-foot deep well at Titusville, Pennsylvania. Now, great volumes of petroleum became available in the United States and became used to produce kerosene for lamps, paraffin for candles, hoof and harness oils, lubricants for ships and mills, a "miracle" salve called Vasoline, as well as for varnishes, lacquer, oilcloth and patent leather. One of the waste by-products of the distilling process was an explosive substance called "gasolene."
1860 - Frenchman Etienne Lenoir built and patented the first commercially satisfactory gas engine, which used an electric spark plug. By 1862 he built a crude vehicle to demonstrate his engine, but it only ran about 1 mph and was unsuccessful.
1864 - Austrian Siegfried Marcus built a one-cylinder engine that used a primitive carburetor and a magneto arrangement to create small explosions that applied alternating pressures against the piston within the cylinder.
1872 - George Brayton of Boston patented a gasoline engine in the US.
1874 - H. J. Lawson invented the first so-called safety bicycle (as compared to the awkward "penny farthing" bicycle) which used pedals and a chain to power two medium-sized wheels of equal diameter.
1875 - Siegfried Marcus built a second gasoline-powered vehicle (still on display in the Technical Museum in Vienna) but abandoned further development as a waste of time.
1876 - Germans Eugene Langen and Nikolaus August Otto, after years of experimentation, introduced the first workable 4-stroke internal combustion gas engine (Gottlieb Daimler was an employee of Langen and Otto over this period)
1879 - Rochester, NY attorney George B. Selden was granted a U.S. patent for the car in 1885, and made legal claims against various US automobile manufacturers for years.
1883 - In Germany, Wilhelm Daimler was granted a patent for a more efficient, 4-stroke, gasoline-fueled engine (earlier "gas" engines had been fueled by hydrogen or turpentine vapors or by coal gas.) Daimler's first engine was mounted on a sturdy bicycle in 1885 to be the birth of the modern motorcycle.
1885 - Carl Benz successfully tested his first 3-wheeled 2-seater motor vehicle at Mannheim, Germany using 1-hp, 1-cylinder engine designed by Otto. He received a patent in 1886 for his carriage with gas engine." This vehicle had all the essential elements characteristic of the modern automobile: electrical ignition, differential, mechanical valves, carburetor, a water cooling system, oil and grease cups for lubrication, and a braking system. The two large rear wheels were chain-driven from an engine mounted over the rear axle driving the car about 8 to 10 mph (13-16 kph).
1887 - Building on his motorcycle experience, Daimler installed his engine into a 4- wheeled, converted carriage, and revved his engine to 900 rpm (compared to Benz's 300 rpm) to become the first high-speed internal combustion engine, developing 1.5 horsepower.
1888 - In Britain, John Boyd Dunlop introduced pneumatic bicycle tires for the safety bicycles.
1892 - The Harris motor wagon, a hard-tired sightseeing bus, was built in Baltimore. German Maybach introduced the first float-type carburetor at this time.
1893 - In Springfield Massachusetts,.Charles E. and J. Frank Duryea introduced a "buggyaut," America's first successful internal combustion horseless carriage, with high wheels and a rear-mounted engine.
1894 - Vacheron introduced the steering wheel, and the Michelin brothers began producing pneumatic tires for cars.