Automobiles are vehicles that are powered by internal combustion or electric power. They are a major part of modern life and cannot be imagined without them. The automobile has transformed society in numerous ways, including providing freedom of movement and the flexible distribution of goods. It has also contributed to the development of new industries, such as retailing and dining. However, it has also brought about negative impacts such as air pollution and the depletion of world oil reserves.
Karl Benz, a German engineer, invented the first modern automobile in 1885. Until 1910, most automobiles were made by hand for the wealthy. Henry Ford came along after Benz and revolutionized the car industry. He created an assembly line to turn out cars quickly and cheaply. This allowed more people to afford an automobile.
Today, many families have two or more automobiles. An average American drives more than three trillion kilometers (two thousand million miles) each year. The automotive industry has become a massive global enterprise. There are dozens of car makers in the United States alone and several hundred in the world.
Postwar issues concerning automobiles include questionable aesthetics of nonfunctional styling, safety and economy, as well as the environmental aspect relating to gas-guzzling “road cruisers” which pollute the atmosphere and drain the world’s oil resources. As a result, the automobile industry has been reshaped by governmental regulations regarding automotive safety, emissions and energy consumption. It has also been penetrated by foreign firms offering fuel-efficient, functionally designed and well-built small cars.