Automobiles are a means of transportation used to carry one or more people and a small amount of cargo. They are usually powered by an internal combustion engine and fueled with either gasoline or diesel fuel, although there are some electric and hybrid cars available. Automobiles are often built with many different technological advances in mind including suspension, braking systems, and safety systems. Several companies manufacture automobiles, with the largest producers being Ford, General Motors and Chrysler, which was created from Maxwell in 1925 by Walter P. Chrysler.
The car as a means of transport has had a huge impact on America, both socially and economically. It has helped people to travel greater distances and to have freedom from the need to rely on others for transportation. Automobiles have also created new industries and provided jobs to those who supply the parts and materials for them, as well as for those who work in gas stations, convenience stores and other automotive related businesses.
Exactly who invented the modern automobile is still somewhat of a mystery, although credit is typically given to Karl Benz for his design of the Benz Patent-Motorwagen in 1886. This vehicle was considered to be the first true automobile, as it was the first vehicle to have a gasoline powered engine that could be manufactured in large numbers.
The development of the automobile was rapid. By the 1920s it had become a vital force for change in American society, ranking as one of the most important industries in terms of value and providing more than one out of six jobs in the country. It was the chief consumer of steel, petroleum and other industrial products, and it led to a number of new industries as well as many innovations in technology.
Some of the more significant developments in automobiles include the electric self-starter and electric ignition (developed by Charles Kettering for Cadillac in 1910-1911), the four-wheel brake system, and the independent suspension. These and other advancements have allowed the automobile to continue to be the main mode of passenger transportation.
The automobile has acted as a progressive force for change throughout its history in the United States, promoting a more consumer-oriented society and causing many changes to industry, transportation, society and daily life. However, as the 21st century begins, the era of the automobile is rapidly fading into an era of electronics. New forces will chart the future, which may be more suited for environmentally friendly technologies and less for dependence on fossil fuels like petroleum and gasoline. Currently, most Americans are dependent on the automobile, and owning one provides them with the freedom to travel anywhere they want and to use other forms of transportation when needed. This independence has shifted American culture significantly and is changing how the world lives, works and plays. The future of the automobile is likely to be a hybrid, electrical or autonomous model rather than the traditional internal combustion engine driven vehicles.