Automobiles are wheeled vehicles with seats for one or more people and an engine to make them move. Most run on gasoline, but they also use other fuels like electricity and diesel. The engine consists of a piston and crankshaft that are driven by the explosion of fuel inside a cylinder. When the gas is burned, it turns the crankshaft, which in turn drives the wheels to make the automobile move forward and backward. An automobile’s controls include a steering wheel to turn it, brakes to slow or stop it and a dashboard with information like speed and fuel.
The automotive industry began developing rapidly around 1900. It took advantage of America’s vast land area and relatively equitable distribution of income. It also took advantage of a national manufacturing tradition that encouraged the production of automobiles in large volume at moderate prices. These factors contributed to the development of a mass market for a very expensive consumer goods item.
The automobile has become a vital force for change in twentieth century life. It is a primary consumer of oil and other raw materials, the main employer in the steel industry, and a major user of many other industrial products and services. Its demand has transformed American society and made it a leader in new forces that are combining to shape the future.