Automobiles are wheeled motor vehicles primarily designed to carry passengers and cargo from one place to another. They are of many kinds, based on their shape, size, propulsion system, Engine type, engine position and drive type and whether they run on track, air, water or underground.
The automobile is a highly effective means of transporting people over long distances. It is more convenient than a train or plane, and allows for a degree of privacy and independence not possible with other forms of transportation. It also opens up opportunities for recreation, commerce, and business.
Various scientific and technological developments contributed to the automobile. The horseless carriage was first perfected in Germany and France in the late 1800s by such figures as Karl Benz, Gottlieb Daimler, and Nicolaus Otto. In the 1920s, Henry Ford innovated mass production techniques that allowed automobile manufacturers to sell their machines at prices affordable to the masses.
While the automobile has brought great benefits to society, it can be a major nuisance when too many of them try to go the same way at the same time. Traffic jams can reduce the speed at which cars move, and they produce air pollution that contributes to global warming. In areas where automobile traffic is heavy, public transportation systems such as buses, passenger trains and trams can transport people more quickly and cheaply than individual drivers.
The era of annually restyled road cruisers ended with federal standards for automotive safety and energy consumption; escalating gasoline prices; rising car accident rates and fatalities; the collapse of Detroit’s big three automakers in the 1960s; and increasing penetration of American automobile markets by Japanese fuel-efficient, functionally designed and well-built small cars.