Automobiles are self-propelled vehicles, typically with four wheels and an internal combustion engine fueled most often by gasoline. They are capable of transporting a driver and some passengers, and they can also carry cargo.
The word automobile comes from the Latin autos and mobile, meaning something that moves without assistance. For example, automatic transmission shifts itself and an automatic washing machine cleans clothes without the help of a person.
In the United States, the automobile industry began to flourish in the late 1800s. German and French firms dominated the market during the first half of the twentieth century, but Henry Ford developed mass-production techniques that revolutionized the industry and helped to establish it as a global enterprise.
During World War II, the automobile became a critical source of war materiel. American automobile manufacturers funneled resources to the military, while production in Europe and Japan soared to meet demand.
Automobiles were a major force in American culture, changing the way people lived and worked. They also gave people more freedom and time to enjoy their leisure activities.
The automobile changed the economy as well. It provided new jobs and increased the demand for a wide variety of products and services.
Many new industries grew to serve the needs of the automotive industry, including petroleum and gasoline, rubber, plastics, and service stations. The industry became one of the largest employers in the country and was responsible for providing one out of every six jobs by 1982.