Automobiles are self-propelled vehicles used for transporting people and goods. It consists of four to eight wheels and is powered by an internal combustion engine which uses volatile fuel. The automobile is widely used and forms one of the major parts of the world’s economy. Automobiles are driven by gasoline, diesel fuel and CNG (Compressed Natural Gas) with some models using electric power and hydrogen as sources of energy. The automotive industry is a large part of the manufacturing sector and a significant contributor to the global economic growth and development. It also provides employment opportunities in the country.
The modern automobile has evolved through continuous technical developments. New systems like control, safety and emission-control are constantly incorporated in the vehicle to make it better. The automobile has also provided many social and political benefits, bringing people more freedom and providing jobs. Industries have developed to manufacture and distribute fuel, rubber, and plastics, and services like gas stations and convenience stores have grown with the demand for automobiles.
In the late 1700s, French engineer Nicolas Joseph Cugnot built a three-wheeled steam-powered “Fardier” that could reach 3 mph (5 kph). In the 1860s Siegfried Marcus designed the first gasoline-powered automobile, a two-stroke internal combustion engine that used kerosene as fuel. Later, Siegfried Marcus was able to convert his gasoline engine to a four-stroke engine and develop a carburetor for the car, making it safer and more efficient.
After 1900, automobiles began to spread around the world as manufacturers perfected their designs and production methods. By the 1920s, the automobile had become the dominant means of transportation aspired to by millions. It was the first mode of motorized transport that was affordable to middle-class Americans, and it was one of the most influential inventions of the twentieth century.
As the automobile grew in popularity, companies needed to increase production in order to meet the high demand. In 1924 General Motors introduced annual model changes to maintain market share and sales. This practice has since been widespread amongst most automobile manufacturers. While new models are usually based on engineering improvements, the automotive form is often driven more by consumer demands than by engineering innovation.
Modern automobiles are typically powered by water-cooled, piston-type internal combustion engines that use gasoline as their fuel. Depending on the design, the engine may be located in front of the axle, mid-way between the axles, or behind the rear axle. In most passenger cars, the engine is mounted at the front of the vehicle to improve weight distribution. Some vehicles also use air-cooled engines but these are less efficient and less common.
The most notable technological achievement in the history of the automobile was the development of the mass-production method by Henry Ford at his Highland Park, Michigan factory in 1910. He innovated a moving assembly line, which enabled him to produce thousands of Model T cars per day. The resulting low cost brought the automobile into the hands of most American families and set off a revolution in personal mobility.