Automobiles are a modern means of transport that is used for the transportation of passengers and goods. They are usually propelled by an internal combustion engine which is powered by a volatile fuel such as Petrol, Diesel, CNG, etc. The automobile industry has been one of the major drivers of economic development in the twentieth century, providing a great deal of employment and becoming the main consumer of petroleum and other raw materials. It is also a significant source of pollution and other social problems.
The branches of engineering that deal with the design, manufacture and technology of automobile vehicles are known as automotive or automobile engineering. It is hard to imagine the existence of human life without the luxuries of cars that make it possible for people to travel long distances conveniently, quickly and safely. The automobile has also transformed the way we live, making it inconceivable that we might return to a time when people have to walk, ride a horse or carry their belongings by hand.
Cars have become a symbol of freedom, and people use them for leisure activities as well as work-related functions. Currently, there are about 1.4 billion passenger cars in use around the world. In the United States alone, about three trillion miles are driven each year on highways and other roads. The automobile industry accounts for a considerable amount of the country’s gross domestic product. It also provides a substantial share of the employment in manufacturing and related industries.
Modern automobiles are highly complex technical systems, with thousands of component parts that have evolved with technological progress over the years. These components are grouped into various subsystems with specific functionalities that have made the automobile an indispensable part of modern society. Some of these subsystems include the body, chassis, engine, transmission system and control systems.
Unlike the previous vehicles that were powered by steam, oil or animal power, the first modern automobiles were powered by an internal combustion engine using petrol (gasoline). The German engineer Karl Benz invented the automobile in 1885 and patented his Benz Patent-Motorwagen in 1886. In the early 1900s, American carmaker Henry Ford introduced mass production methods to his factory, which reduced the price of his Model T runabout so that it became affordable for many middle-class families. The automobile soon overtook horses as the dominant form of transportation in Europe and the United States.
Automobiles are a convenient and practical means of transport in the countryside, but they are expensive and polluting. They have also encouraged the formation of large suburban communities. In 1916, two women took a bold step in the history of automobiles when they drove across the country to advocate for women’s right to vote by decorating their cars with slogans such as “votes for women.” This was a very risky move for that time, but it helped change public opinion and attitudes about the role of women in society. The automobile has also contributed to a more consumer-oriented lifestyle in the United States and has been a major source of growth for the steel, petroleum and other ancillary industries.