Automobiles are self-propelled vehicles that are designed mainly for passenger transportation and powered by an internal combustion engine fueled with gasoline (a fossil fuel) or electricity. Also known as motorcars, automobiles are one of the most ubiquitous and recognizable of modern technologies, and their manufacturing is one of the world’s largest industries.
The automobile was first perfected in Germany and France during the late nineteenth century by such men as Gottlieb Daimler, Karl Benz, and Nicolaus Otto. These early manufacturers benefited from a strong seller’s market for a new consumer good, and they produced their products in large numbers with relatively cheap raw materials and skilled labor.
As a result of their success, the automobile rapidly became the dominant form of personal transportation in the United States. It was also a powerful force for change in twentieth-century American life, and it provided the economic backbone for a new consumer goods-oriented society. It was a key player in the rapid development of new technological systems, and it became one of the principal customers of steel and petroleum-based industrial products.
Owning a car can provide great convenience, and it allows people to travel and explore their surroundings on their own. However, the benefits of owning a car should be weighed against its associated costs such as purchasing and maintenance expenses, fuel, insurance, parking fees, and depreciation. Additionally, driving can be detrimental to the environment as it contributes to air pollution and greenhouse gases.