The Importance of Automobiles


An automobile is a wheeled passenger vehicle that has its own motor and typically runs primarily on roads. Most definitions also specify that an automobile is designed to carry people rather than cargo. Currently there are about 590 million automobiles in the world, and about 140 million in the United States. Almost all automobiles burn a fuel to make an internal combustion engine run. The engine drives the wheels through a transmission which has a set of gears that can change speeds. Most modern automobiles use gasoline, but electric, diesel, and other fuels are also used.

The invention of the automobile caused great changes in industry and technology, as well as everyday life. It led to the development of better roads, created new industries and jobs based on the manufacture of parts and fuels, and gave people greater freedom of movement. However, automobiles have their disadvantages, such as the noise and pollution they produce, the danger of accidents, and the need to find parking spaces.

Cars are important to most Americans’ lives, and they are now more than ever an integral part of the American culture. The era of the annually restyled road cruiser has ended, with government regulation and safety standards forcing manufacturers to focus on functional design and improved performance and efficiency. The environmental impact of automobiles has become a major concern, as cars cause air pollution that can harm the environment and drain dwindling world oil supplies.

Automobiles were first developed in the late 1800s, and production-line manufacturing of affordable cars began with Ransom Eli Olds’s Oldsmobile factory in 1902. Henry Ford developed mass-production techniques that became standard and established the Big Three auto makers—Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler—by 1920.

Since then, a great many technological advances have been made in the field of automobiles. For example, the first regenerative brakes were invented to save energy by turning the energy of the vehicle’s motion into electricity. Another advance was the carburetor, which automatically adjusts the amount of fuel fed to the engine based on load and speed.

The automobile has changed people’s lifestyles in the United States and around the world. It has provided them with freedom to go where they want, when they want, and without having to wait for a train or a bus. It has also allowed them to get away from the crowds and the pollution of city centers. For some women, owning a car has even been an important step in their quest for suffrage. Two such activists, Nell Richardson and Alice Burke, traveled across the country in 1916 to promote the right to vote with “votes for women” banners mounted on their cars. Their bold demonstration of female independence and strength was an inspiration to others. They are often regarded as the mothers of modern feminism.