Automobiles are vehicles that are self-propelled using an internal combustion engine powered by a volatile fuel. They are generally driven by petrol, diesel or CNG, but technological advancement has also made it possible for automobiles to run on electricity or hydrogen. An automobile is a complex system that comprises various sub-systems with specific functions. The different systems of an automobile include body, chassis, engine and other auxiliary systems.
Karl Benz, an engineer from Germany, invented the first automobile around 1885. He was followed by other inventors and manufacturers who developed their own designs. By 1920, the automobile had taken over streets and byways across Europe and the United States. Car manufacturing methods pioneered by Henry Ford revolutionized industrial production and reduced the cost of automobiles to affordable levels for middle-class families.
The automobile transformed American society in many ways. It gave people more freedom and time to enjoy leisure activities, such as traveling and shopping. It also brought new services and jobs, such as motels, restaurants and fast food, recreational parks and other entertainment, and gas stations and convenience stores. It also prompted new laws and government requirements, such as seat belts, highway rules, driver’s licenses, and safety features like air bags and child seats. The automobile also had some negative effects, such as pollution from cars burning gasoline and the loss of undeveloped land to build roads and cities.
During the early 1920s, the U.S. population was growing and middle-class incomes were increasing. This led to more Americans buying cars and more companies manufacturing them. Cheap raw materials and a long history of mechanization encouraged American firms to produce automobiles at lower prices than European producers could. The result was a huge seller’s market for an expensive consumer good that quickly became the backbone of a new economy based on consumerism and industrialization.
The design of an automobile depends largely on its intended use. Passenger vehicles -cars, buses and taxis- are the largest group of automobiles. Commercial vehicles -trucks, tempos and containers- are another important category. Special purpose vehicles – ambulances, fire brigade and police vehicles -are also used on roads.
The modern automobile is composed of thousands of individual parts that are arranged into several semi-independent systems with specific functions. Some of these are analogous to the human circulatory system, such as the system for cooling and lubricating the engine. Others are more complex, such as the powertrain that consists of the engine, transmission and driveline. The engine can be located at the front of the vehicle over or ahead of the front axle, and this changes how the weight is distributed. Front-engine cars are lighter and more fuel efficient than rear-engined vehicles. Some designs combine a front-engine with a mid-engine to improve handling and fuel efficiency. Other important automobile systems include the steering and suspension, and control systems.