I had to write some Automake and Autoconf scripts from scratch yesterday and came across this in the documentation:
Automake is a tool for automatically generating Makefile.ins from files called Makefile.am. Each Makefile.am is basically a series of make variable definitions, with rules being thrown in occasionally. The generated Makefile.ins are compliant with the GNU Makefile standards.
The GNU Makefile Standards Document (see Makefile Conventions) is long, complicated, and subject to change. The goal of Automake is to remove the burden of Makefile maintenance from the back of the individual GNU maintainer (and put it on the back of the Automake maintainers).
That's like claiming you wrote a C compiler to ensure that the assembly conforms to your coding standards.
All snark aside, the documentation was good and I was up and building a library in an hour or two from a C++ codebase I had never touched before, which isn't bad since I'd never previously written automake or autoconf scripts.