Automobiles are four-wheeled vehicles used primarily for passenger transportation and powered by internal combustion engines that use a volatile fuel. These vehicles have evolved from the mechanical innovations of the 15th century — such as Leonardo da Vinci’s drawings of designs and models for transport vehicles — through steam, electric and gasoline engines to modern, computer-designed automotive systems.
The automobile revolutionized human civilization by transforming the way people get around and live their lives. It gives individuals a degree of personal freedom to travel at their own leisure, to visit friends or relatives, or to go shopping. They also can travel to work and to school without having to rely on others for transportation. In addition, owning a vehicle allows people to explore different portions of a city or community and to live farther away from their workplaces.
Having a car also makes it possible to attend meetings, job interviews and other important events when they are needed. The ability to make frequent trips saves time and energy and enables people to be more productive.
The invention and perfecting of the automobile was a major force in the development of industry, technology and the economy of the United States. The development of the assembly line revolutionized production, and the automobile industry created countless jobs and businesses that produced the parts, tires, and services required to keep the vehicles in operation. The American manufacturers Ford, GM and Chrysler, which became known as the Big Three, dominated the industry until it was eclipsed by foreign cars during World War II. After the war, manufacturers introduced a number of innovations to improve the performance and cost of the automobile. However, the pace of innovation slowed considerably with the emergence of market saturation and the imposition of governmental standards on safety and fuel efficiency in cars.