Automobiles (also known as cars) are self-propelled vehicles that run on a motor. They can be fueled most often by gasoline, a liquid petroleum product.
Throughout history, automobiles have been used to transport people and goods. They were developed in the nineteenth century as an alternative to horse-drawn wagons.
The automobile, in its modern form, is a sophisticated system that offers the mobility and flexibility of use demanded by an enormous variety of lifestyles and industries. It also is one of the most universal and successful of all modern technologies.
It is the result of a long and complex series of scientific and technological developments that go back several hundred years. Its basic components include the steam engine, the gas engine, and the electric motor.
They were adapted for different uses, but they all share common features and functions that make them work efficiently. Compared to other types of transportation, such as trains or buses, automobiles offer many advantages including greater range and speed, more comfort, convenience, safety, and reliability.
The first modern automobile was a gasoline-powered vehicle built by Nikolaus Otto in 1876 and later improved by Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach. This engine, with its V-shaped cylinders and mushroom-shaped valves, established the basic design of modern engines.
But it was not until the 1890s that car designers began to adapt their designs for mass production. This development helped to revolutionize the industrial manufacturing of the twentieth century.
It was Henry Ford in the United States that introduced assembly lines to his factories and helped to bring the price of cars down until they were affordable to most middle-class families. This process helped to create a new consumer goods-oriented society that provided jobs for a growing number of Americans.
By the 1920s, automobiles had overtaken horse-drawn carriages in most major cities and were considered the lifeblood of many American industries. They provided one out of every six jobs in the country and were the driving force behind the development of an entirely new consumer goods-oriented economy.
This new economy grew rapidly, providing opportunities for people from all walks of life to improve their quality of life. It transformed America from a rural and industrial to a consumer-oriented society that was more like Europe.
Despite its great social benefits, the automobile industry faced stiff competition from other forms of transportation that were more efficient and more affordable. These included the railroad, which offered high speeds and a large range of routes; the steam-powered horseless carriage; and the battery-powered electric car.
The gasoline-powered automobile emerged as the winner in this competition. By the 1920s, it had overtaken all other forms of transportation in both Europe and the United States.
In the United States, automobile production was accelerated by cheap raw materials and a chronic shortage of skilled labor. The absence of tariff barriers between the states encouraged sales over a wide geographic area.
The automobile became the primary consumer of steel and oil, as well as many other industrial products. It provided a new source of income for the petroleum industry and an increasingly important source of employment for workers in many other industries. It also helped to change the way cities and rural areas were designed.