Almost everyone now owns an automobile, and they are the most common mode of transportation in the world. They allow people to travel long distances quickly, and they are a source of freedom for many. They have also facilitated development of industries and services that serve the needs of automobile owners, such as oil and gasoline, rubber, plastics, and auto parts and service shops.
In a short time, the automobile has changed American life dramatically. It has given most families a sense of freedom and independence that they did not previously have. People can travel to work or school from far away places. They can visit relatives who live in distant cities. People who live in the city can escape to the country for vacations. They can shop and get medical services, if needed, without having to leave the car.
The automobile was invented in the late 1800s. Two inventive giants, Carl Benz of Germany and Gottlich Wilhelm Daimler of France, worked separately and at about the same time on the first practical motor vehicles. The automobiles they produced were based on the design of carriages that used horses, but these new machines had engines that powered them, and they could haul people rather than cargo.
Eventually, the automobile gained popularity, and by the 1920s, middle-class Americans could afford to buy them. Automobiles have become a symbol of our nation’s technological and economic power. Yet, as we move into a new era, the automobile is losing its influence as a force for social change.