Automobiles are a form of transportation that uses an internal combustion engine to propel the vehicle. They are usually driven by a single person and can seat up to seven people. They are used for most everyday transportation in the United States and worldwide. They are one of the greatest inventions in history, allowing people to travel longer distances and more independently than ever before. The first automobiles were steam and electric powered, with gasoline internal combustion engines achieving dominance by the 1910s. During this period, the automotive industry exploded, as did many new businesses that provided parts and services to automobile owners.
The term “automobile” is derived from the French words, auto- meaning self and mobile, as in being capable of moving on its own. The first cars were developed in the late 1700s and 1800s, but they were not practical to use on the road until the development of the internal combustion engine in the 1885/1886 by Karl Benz.
During the 1910s and 1920s, as middle class families began to be able to afford these vehicles, American society changed dramatically. Women were able to drive, which allowed them to move around more freely and work in jobs that had been traditionally men’s domains. They were also able to tour the country, which sparked a boom in tourism. Young people discovered the mobile private space that automobiles offer, and this facilitated a new practice of dating that replaced traditional chaperoned courtship.