Automobiles Open Up the World

Automobiles, four-wheeled vehicles that carry passengers and run primarily on roads, have become one of the most universal of modern technologies. Also known as cars, they are generally powered by an internal combustion engine fueled most commonly by gasoline (a liquid petroleum product). They are considered to be passenger vehicles since they have seating for one to six people. Trucks, vans, buses, and limousines are sometimes included in the category of automobiles.


The automobile makes it possible to cover long distances with relative ease. This enables people to live and work in different places with little difficulty, which opens up many new possibilities. It gives people more options about whom they choose to include in their social circles and where they want to live in relation to their jobs.

Throughout the twentieth century, the automobile has transformed American culture. It became a central force in a consumer-goods-oriented society and provided most of the jobs in the United States. It also led to changes in business, technology, and politics.

But the automobile has not been without its downsides. It has contributed to air pollution, increased traffic congestion, and automobile accidents. It has put a strain on the planet’s dwindling oil supplies. In addition, it has encouraged the growth of large automakers and led to a decline in the number of independent manufacturers.

In the early 1900s, three types of automobiles competed to be the most popular: steam, electric power, and gasoline. Steam engines could reach high speeds but required constant attention and had a limited range. Battery-powered electric vehicles were slower than gas-powered cars and were hampered by the fact that recharging stations were often far apart. Gasoline-powered automobiles won out because they were more economical than the other two types of vehicles.

Many people believe that Karl Benz of Germany invented the modern automobile in 1885 or 1886. However, the exact process for creating a modern automobile is still debated. Regardless of who invented the first automobile, the development of automobiles continued to progress as new manufacturing techniques were introduced. For example, the mass production technique developed by Henry Ford allowed him to produce cars at a low price and make them available to most Americans.

As the automotive industry grew, consumers began to place more emphasis on the styling of the car rather than its functionality. As a result, some American manufacturers were called “gas-guzzlers” by consumers.

In the 1970s, world oil supplies began to dwindle and prices for gasoline rose. This gave automobile makers incentive to develop cars that used less gasoline, and Japanese manufacturers were particularly successful at this. As a result, the Automobile Age is beginning to merge into a new Age of Electronics. However, most Americans are likely to continue to own automobiles in the foreseeable future. Whether the automobile will continue to be a progressive force for change remains to be seen. The answer may depend on the next great technological innovation.