Automobiles, also known as cars, are vehicles that are designed to run primarily on roads and to carry people instead of cargo. While the scientific and technical building blocks of automobiles date back several hundred years, the modern car came into existence in the late 1800s. Karl Benz is generally given credit for inventing the first true automobile.
By the 1920s automobile production was dominated by American companies. Henry Ford innovated mass-production techniques, which allowed the manufacture of affordable automobiles for middle class Americans. Ford’s Model T runabout, sold for a fraction of the price of a 1901 Mercedes, put advanced motor transportation within the reach of millions of Americans.
As a result, many new businesses opened up to serve automobiles and their drivers, such as gas stations, restaurants, hotels, and amusement parks. This ushered in a new age of personal mobility that has transformed modern life.
While there are some problems associated with automobiles, such as the damage they cause when they crash and their contribution to air pollution, most people would agree that having an automobile opens up a wide range of possibilities for work and recreation. It allows urban residents to escape to the countryside and rural dwellers to visit cities, which can open up more job opportunities and more social activities.
Automobiles have also changed our culture. Two women, Nell Richardson and Alice Burke, made a pretty bold car trip in 1916 in order to advocate for the right of women to vote. They drove across the country and decorated their car with “votes for women” banners.