The automobile is a self-propelled, four-wheeled vehicle that usually has two to six passenger seats and can carry a small amount of cargo. It is powered by an internal combustion engine fueled by gasoline, although some have electric motors as well. The automobile’s power is delivered through a transmission, which has gears that can be changed to make the car go faster or slower. Safety features are a major concern in the design of automobiles, as is environmental friendliness. An automobile is a very complicated system that incorporates many different parts. The design of an automobile must balance these concerns and satisfy as many of them as possible.
The invention of the automobile revolutionized modern life. It became necessary to build cities with wide streets and sufficient space for automobile traffic. Automobiles also brought about changes in industry and commerce. The automobile was the backbone of a new consumer goods-oriented society. It became one of the largest employers and demanded the use of advanced techniques of production and manufacturing. It was the biggest purchaser of steel, and a major customer for many other industrial products. It helped create jobs in the automobile and ancillary industries.
Automobiles are made up of thousands of individual parts that are arranged into several semi-independent systems. Like the human body, the automotive system has a circulatory system that provides coolant for the engine and lubricates it. Other important systems include the fuel pump, ignition, and brakes. The automobile also has an exhaust system that reduces noise and pollution. The body of the automobile must accommodate these functions, while also satisfying standards for size and weight, aerodynamics (the ability to cut through wind), and appearance.
The first practical automobiles were built in the late nineteenth century. French engineer Nicolas Joseph Cugnot developed a three-wheeled, steam-driven carriage with an engine that powered the rear wheels. It was able to travel at a maximum speed of about 4 mph (5 kph).
American automaker Henry Ford used assembly line methods for his Model T runabout in 1910, making it affordable for the middle class. The invention of the automobile gave people a greater freedom of movement, and opened up possibilities for employment, social activities, and recreation. Families were able to spend vacations in remote areas and shop in towns and cities. Teenagers gained independence and a sense of self-reliance by driving, and couples could enjoy private drives and romantic getaways.
Today’s automobile has numerous technical innovations that have improved performance and safety. Computerized systems warn drivers of impending problems and take corrective action, including automatic braking, to prevent crashes or loss of control. Many manufacturers are developing vehicles that can operate without a driver, but for now the automobile is still mostly driven by humans. The driver must pay attention to the road and the vehicle, and be ready to react quickly to changing conditions. A crash can cause serious injury or death to the driver and passengers.