A motor vehicle, usually four wheels, with an internal combustion engine (a gasoline or oil fueled device) intended for passenger transportation on land. It has a capacity for seating one to eight people.

The automobile has become a major industry, making a significant contribution to economic development and social progress. It has brought urban amenities to rural areas and stimulated tourism. It also has changed the nature of travel from an arduous, dangerous and costly undertaking to a relatively safe and convenient one.

Automobiles are often viewed as the “progressive force” of the modern age. But today a new set of forces–the electronic media, lasers, computer systems and robots–are charting the future, and the automobile is no longer at the forefront of technological advancement.

First Cars, 1885-1908

The first cars were made in Germany in the mid-1880s by a team led by Karl Benz. Among its many innovations, Benz patented the Otto Cycle petrol engine (a combustion device for powering a two- or three-wheeled vehicle), the rotary-gear transmission system, the first self-starter, and other improvements.

American cars, 1893-1908

The United States had a much greater need for automotive transportation than did Europe. With its large, unrestricted land area and its population’s great mobility, it was a perfect place to start producing motor vehicles for the mass market.

American Automobiles, 1908-1920

Henry Ford introduced the Model T in 1908 and established the mass production assembly line, reducing the cost of cars to the point where they became affordable for most middle-class Americans. The automobile’s low price and the company’s efficient manufacturing methods revolutionized industrial production in America, and its widespread use marked the beginning of an era of innovation.

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