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In this chapter we are going to talk about some of the automobile effects that it has had. Upon the law, and some of the effects that the law has had upon the automobile. We could undoubtedly open up some worthwhile lines of thought, if we talked about the automobile in relation to, certain brooder problems of which it is a part: for example, the effects of the internal combustion the growth engine, or of all types of communication. But we shall have enough on our hands if we stick to the automobile, and even so in the limits of this chapter, we can discuss at any length only the relation of the law and the passenger car. Of the 32 million registered motor vehicles in the United States in 1940, substantially over 27 million were passenger cars, and a little under four and one-half million were motor trucks. Until the middle 1920s the proportion of trucks to passenger cars was much lower than this. Not only as the passenger the center of the auto problem as a matter of gross figures; it was likewise the main aspect of the problem that men saw and reacted to. We may properly focus on it when we try to retrace paths of the law's responses to the motor vehicle.


This manuscript was authored by the late James Willard Hurst, Vilas Professor of Law, University of Wisconsin Law School, in 1949. The manuscript has been edited for publication by BJ Ard, Assistant Professor of Law, University of Wisconsin Law School, and William J. Novak, Charles F. and Edith J. Clyne Professor of Law, University of Michigan Law School. The editors are grateful to Professor Hurst’s family—especially Thomas Hurst and Deborah Hurst Senter—and many colleagues for their support of this project. For further thanks and explanatory notes—and the remarkable history of this manuscript—see BJ Ard & William J. Novak, Foreword: Willard Hurst’s Unpublished Manuscript on Law, Technology, and Regulation, 2022 WIS. L. REV. 443.