Automobiles have changed the way we live, and have contributed to the growth of the nation’s economy. There are currently over 1.4 billion passenger vehicles in operation worldwide. About one-quarter of them are in the United States. Americans drive about three trillion miles a year, and about 70 million new passenger cars are built every year.
Automobiles have come a long way from their humble origins as bicycles. During the mid-Victorian era, bicycle builders developed velocipedes, which were essentially bicycles with engines. In 1867, Sylvester Howard Roper invented a similar machine, and by 1885, the internal combustion engine was born.
The term “automobile” is often misused. Many people throw around the word “motorcycle” and “automobile” interchangeably. However, legal issues can get extremely technical about the terms. For instance, a motorcycle could be a motorcycle, even if it has a sidecar. In fact, motorcycles aren’t classified as automobiles because they are only three wheels, and can’t carry many passengers.
Early automobiles have been invented by numerous inventors. The first practical automobile was designed by Karl Benz in 1885. The Benz company became the largest automobile manufacturer in the world by 1900. Its design incorporated an internal combustion engine with the chassis.