Automobiles have influenced American society more than perhaps any other invention in modern times. They have made possible new recreational and social activities, like shopping, dining, and vacation trips. They have shaped urban design, government services such as police and fire departments, and highway construction. They have given rise to new businesses such as gas stations and hotels. And they have revolutionized ancillary industries such as steel and petroleum.
An automobile is a wheeled motor vehicle that is designed for passenger transportation and powered most often by gasoline, a liquid petroleum product. It is a vital part of modern life, with more than three trillion miles (five trillion kilometres) driven annually worldwide.
There are many different types of cars, with models designed to meet specific needs and tastes. For example, a family may choose a station wagon with more room to carry passengers and cargo. A sedan, on the other hand, has two doors and is seen as more elegant. There are also hatchbacks for carrying more cargo and vans that can be used for hauling equipment.
One of the biggest benefits that comes with owning a car is the ability to save time. Unlike public transportation, which can be slow and unreliable, an automobile can get you where you need to go quickly. This can free up valuable time to spend with your family or doing other things you enjoy.
When people acquire an automobile, they are usually very happy about the decision. They will often tell their friends and family members that the automobile has changed their lives in a variety of ways. People who live in rural areas can now visit their relatives living in urban centers, and people who live in city areas can now escape to the countryside for a day or weekend trip. And people who work in cities can travel to their jobs in the countryside without having to pay a taxi or train fare.
From the early 1900s through the 1920s, automobiles were becoming more affordable to middle-class Americans, as the technology behind them improved and the factories became more efficient. Karl Benz, a German engineer, invented the first automobile in 1885, and he was followed by Henry Ford, who revolutionized the way automobiles were manufactured with his assembly line concept. This allowed him to produce the same car model over and over again, so it was available to a much larger market.
After World War II, the automobile was the backbone of a consumer goods-oriented economy, with it providing one out of six industrial products in the United States. In addition, it was a major employer in dozens of ancillary industries, including the steel and petroleum industries. However, by the 1960s, engineering had been subordinated to questionable aesthetics of nonfunctional styling, and quality had declined dramatically. With increasing air pollution and drain on dwindling world oil reserves, automotive manufacturers began to produce fuel-efficient cars. The era of the annual restyled road cruiser came to an end.