Automobiles are four-wheeled vehicles designed to be driven on roads. They usually have seats for one to six people and a motor that converts chemical energy into mechanical energy. The engine is fueled by gasoline, diesel fuel or other fossil fuels. The energy is transmitted to the wheels by a transmission system that may be automatic or manual.
During the last century, no invention has changed daily life more than the automobile. It brought suburban life to urban America, ended rural isolation, and gave rise to leisure activities such as movies and amusement parks. It also created new industries and services like motels, hotels, gas stations and convenience stores. But the automobile was not without its pitfalls. Its exhaust polluted the environment and contributed to air pollution, and it took up valuable land that could be used for other purposes.
Cars have become essential to most families, and owning a car is now almost a status symbol. Besides being convenient, cars allow people to save time. They can leave work at their own pace, and they can drive to destinations that are far away from public transportation routes. They can visit friends and family in other towns and cities, and they can make late-night ice cream runs or take trips to vacation spots.
The first modern automobiles were developed in the late 1800s. Karl Benz, a German engineer, designed the first practical gas-powered vehicle. But it was Henry Ford’s use of assembly line techniques that helped to make the automobile affordable for middle-class Americans.