Automobiles are the most important means of transportation in modern society. They are generally four wheeled vehicles powered by gasoline, and usually designed for passenger transportation on land. The size of the engine and the weight distribution of the vehicle depend on the intended use and location.
Historically, automobiles were developed in France and Germany in the late 1800s. Their earliest American version was a three-wheeler built by Edward Butler in 1884. This three-wheeler had steerable front wheels and a horizontal single cylinder gasoline engine. It was a precursor to the modern day motorcycle.
In the 1920s, the automobile industry became the lifeblood of the petroleum industry in the United States. With a higher per capita income than Europe, American demand for automobiles increased. By the end of the 1920s, the gasoline-powered automobile had overtaken the streets of America.
As automobiles evolved from steam engines to gasoline-powered ones, manufacturers were able to separate their markets into smaller segments. As the market grew, manufacturers were able to introduce new designs more frequently. Some of the first American manufacturers were Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler.
Automobiles were the result of a number of scientific breakthroughs. In the 1800s, Dutch scientist Christiaan Huygens developed the first internal combustion engine, sparked by gunpowder. Eventually, the engine was designed for high speeds. But the engine was not easy to start, and the range of the car was limited.
During the First World War, the automobile industry played a vital role in the war production. It made 75 essential military items for the war, totaling $29 billion.
At the same time, the automobile industry helped improve rural health and education. It was also the precursor to the development of tourism-related industries. A major factor in the growth of the automobile industry was the increased availability of cheap raw materials.
After the Second World War, the automobile industry expanded into Europe and Japan. By the 1980s, it was a global industry. Today, approximately 70 million new passenger cars are manufactured worldwide.
Modern automobiles are a technologically complex system that has thousands of component parts. They incorporate new technologies such as emission-control systems and safety legislation. Manufacturers are also using scientific research to develop and improve their drivetrains, chassis, and body. Vehicles are now designed to optimize performance, handling, comfort, and safety.
The development of the automobile industry was one of the most important forces in twentieth century American history. By the end of the twentieth century, the industry provided one out of every six jobs in the United States.
From the 1920s to the 1980s, the automotive industry in the United States dominated the automotive industry worldwide. During that period, Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler emerged as the “Big Three” automobile companies. These three companies became the backbone of a consumer goods-oriented society.
By the middle of the twentieth century, the automobile industry was the leading consumer of industrial products in the United States. Automobiles fueled the rise of the tourism industry and the increase in the number of hospitals and schools in the rural areas of the United States.