Automobiles are self-propelled vehicles used for transporting passengers and goods. They usually have four wheels, are powered by an internal combustion engine or electric motor and can carry a small number of people. The automobile industry is one of the largest in the world, and it has spawned many technological advances. It has also become an economic force, generating millions of jobs and billions of dollars. The branches of engineering that deal with automobile design, manufacturing and technology are called automotive engineering.
Having a car makes it much easier to go anywhere you want, whenever you want. It can take you to work or school, run errands and visit friends or family. It can even help you save time and money.
In addition to providing a means of transportation, the automobile has a history as a symbol of American freedom and mobility. It has also played an important role in defining personal identity and social standing. For example, two women made a pretty bold statement when they drove across the country in 1916 to advocate for women’s rights. They decorated their cars with “votes for women” banners. This was a highly political act in a society when most women did not drive.
The modern automobile is a complex technical system. It has thousands of subsystems with specific design functions. These systems are based on technological breakthroughs in fields such as electronic computers, high-strength plastics and new alloys of steel and nonferrous metals. In addition to the mechanical components of the vehicle, the automobile incorporates a multitude of sensors and control systems that monitor and control its various systems.
Ultimately, it is the mechanical engineering that determines how well an automobile performs. For example, the braking system must be able to stop the automobile quickly when needed. Similarly, the steering system must provide a smooth and comfortable ride. Finally, the fuel system must be able to supply enough power to propel the automobile at desired speeds.
The first automobiles were steam engines attached to wagons, but they were slow and difficult to control. In the late 1800s, Karl Benz invented the first gas-powered automobile, the Benz Patent-Motorwagen. It looked a lot like an elongated tricycle and seated just two people.
The development of the automobile continued to grow rapidly with innovations such as electric ignition and the automatic self-starter, both developed by Charles Kettering for the Cadillac Motor Company in 1910. The automobile was able to achieve mass production with the introduction of the assembly line in 1908. In the early 20th century, Henry Ford began to revolutionize transportation with his Model T. Today there are more than 1.4 billion passenger automobiles on the roads worldwide. They travel more than three trillion miles per year and consume over five trillion gallons of gasoline annually. This amounts to more than one-quarter of the planet’s supply. The automobile has become a vital part of human civilization and will continue to play an important role in global commerce.