An automobile (American English: car; British English: motor vehicle) is a wheeled motor vehicle for transporting people. Automobiles are generally powered by internal combustion engines, running on gasoline or other fuels; they may also use steam engines or electric motors. The design and development of automobiles is the domain of automotive engineering, an important branch of mechanical engineering.
The automobile changed society in the United States dramatically during the 1920s. It was the backbone of a new consumer goods-oriented economy, generating one out of every six jobs and becoming one of the biggest consumers of industrial products like petroleum and steel. In the process, it spawned ancillary industries, such as rubber and plastics, that made a huge contribution to American life. It also drove the construction of improved roads, prompted new jobs in the transportation industry and provided access to more distant jobs for people who could not be reached by public transportation.
Automakers innovated mass production techniques in the 1920s, and Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler became the dominant manufacturers of automobiles. They funneled most of their resources into producing for the war effort during World War II, and afterward the automobile industry consolidated in a handful of global companies that produced cars at competitive prices.
A major factor in the consolidation of the auto industry was the introduction of the automobile assembly line, which enabled mass production of automobiles in a very efficient manner. However, the automobile itself was not invented by a single individual; its history stretches back to the 15th century, when Leonardo Da Vinci created theoretical plans for transport vehicles. Various inventors developed steam, electric and gasoline powered automobiles throughout the 1800s, with the first modern motorcars having been perfected in Germany and France by men like Gottlieb Daimler, Karl Benz and Nicolaus Otto.
The automobile revolutionized the way we live, work and play. Today, it is virtually impossible to imagine a life without an automobile. But there are downsides to owning and driving an automobile.
Limitations in Urban Areas: In densely populated cities, having a car can be inconvenient. Narrow streets and traffic jams can make driving a hassle, as can finding parking spots in the city. In addition, maintenance costs can be high.
Enhanced Social Connectivity: Owning a car makes it easier to maintain social connections, as it allows you to visit friends and family who live far away. It can also be safer than relying on public transit, especially late at night or when it is raining.
The automobile was a great force for change in twentieth-century America, but it has been eclipsed by other forces. New technologies are now charting the course for America, and the era of the automobile is slowly merging into the Age of Electronics. The future will be shaped by these emerging trends. The automobile industry is already focusing on developing hybrid and fuel-efficient automobiles to respond to concerns about pollution, oil reserves, and energy costs.