Automobiles are vehicles for land transport that usually have four to eight wheels and are powered by an internal combustion engine or an electric motor. They are a major means of passenger and freight transportation, and the branches of engineering that deal with automobiles are called automotive engineering. In modern times, people can hardly imagine their lives without the convenience of having an automobile to travel around and visit places. The automobile also plays an important role in the economic and social life of a country. Many people rely on it for their daily commute to work, school or shopping. Others use it to go out of town for leisure activities such as vacations, picnics and visiting friends.
Among the many inventions that have changed the world, perhaps none has been more influential than the automobile. Its effects have been both beneficial and detrimental. It has brought people closer together and allowed them to experience new adventures, while at the same time causing environmental harm due to exhaust pollution and loss of wilderness.
The development of the automobile has been influenced by a number of factors, including technological advancements, market demand and government regulations. For example, the production techniques introduced by American manufacturer Henry Ford revolutionized industrial manufacturing. This allowed the automobile to become affordable to middle-class families. As a result, the car became the main mode of transportation in the United States and most of the world.
Modern automobiles are usually driven by a petrol (gasoline) fueled, water-cooled, piston-type internal combustion engine that can drive the front wheels, the rear wheels or both. Some can also be equipped with an electric motor that can operate in either electric-only or gasoline-electric hybrid mode.
Other systems are used to make automobiles safer and more comfortable, such as air conditioning, heaters, seatbelts and other safety features, and power steering. These are sometimes optional, but are increasingly mandatory on certain models in order to comply with government safety standards. In addition, many automakers develop systems that help the driver to keep up with traffic and avoid collisions.
Whether it’s a sleek sports sedan, an SUV or a truck, the design of an automobile depends on its intended purpose. Those designed for off-road driving require rugged, durable and simple systems, while those designed for high-speed, limited-access road conditions must be optimized for passenger comfort options, vehicle stability and performance.
In general, however, any automobile that meets the necessary safety and performance requirements can be classified as a modern vehicle. This is especially true if it has a modern fuel-efficient, environmentally friendly or alternative energy engine. This is particularly the case for electric vehicles, which are becoming more popular as the cost of batteries continues to decline. Moreover, electric vehicle batteries can be charged in much less time than those for gasoline-powered cars. This is expected to further propel the growth of this market in the future.