Automobiles are a huge part of our daily lives. Whether we are driving to work or on vacation, our cars allow us to travel across the country or to a neighboring city with ease. Without them, the luxuries of modern life would not be possible. Automobiles are powered by internal combustion engines that use gasoline, diesel or kerosene to power a piston in a cylinder that turns a crankshaft.
The automobile revolutionized the way people live and do business. It made it possible for people to travel long distances and opened new opportunities for recreation, education and industry. It enabled women to work outside the home and it allowed people in rural areas to travel into urban areas for jobs or leisure activities.
During the early years of the 20th century, the gasoline-powered automobile won out over the horse-drawn carriage in Europe and the United States. As a result of advances in industrial manufacturing, such as the assembly line introduced by Ransom E. Olds and expanded by Henry Ford, automobile prices fell to a level that made them affordable for the middle class.
While the automobile revolutionized the way we live and do business, it also contributed to problems such as traffic congestion, air pollution and sprawl (low-density residential development that degrades landscapes). Today the car is still central to our lives. But the automotive industry is reinventing itself with technology that supports new business models. The automobile era is melding with the Age of Electronics.