Automobiles are vehicles that have a power-driven internal combustion engine. They are usually four-wheeled and designed primarily for passenger transportation. Most modern automobiles use gasoline, although some run on diesel fuel, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), wood gas or a mixture of ethanol and gasoline called flex-fuel. The automobile has revolutionized the way people live and work. It has allowed them to get to their jobs more quickly, travel for leisure and go shopping. It has also created new industries and services such as hotels, amusement parks, fast food and convenience stores. But it has also brought problems, such as pollution and increased traffic congestion.
Cars are a symbol of wealth and success in many societies, and they can be a status symbol as well. Owning a car can give the owner a sense of freedom. They can travel as far as they want without having to worry about the time it will take to reach their destination. The ability to travel to far-away places gives them a chance to enjoy different cultures and experiences. Automobiles can also bring families together as they can go to visit friends and relatives.
The history of the automobile has a long and complex story. The first automobiles were steam and electric cars invented by engineers such as Karl Benz. But it was Henry Ford who developed a process for mass production which made the automobile affordable to most middle class families. His Model T became the most popular vehicle in America.
Today, there are more than 1.4 billion automobiles in operation worldwide. Most are powered by gasoline, but some use other fuels such as liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), kerosene, natural gas, wood gas or a combination of ethanol and gasoline called flex-fuel. Automobiles are a major source of air pollution, and governments have set strict emission standards for them.
In the past, automobiles were very expensive and labor intensive to produce. In the early 1920s, however, the cost of automobiles began to decline. This coincided with improvements in automotive design and manufacturing technology, such as the self-starter, the closed all-steel body and the hydraulic brakes that came into use in 1925. The introduction of the Model T, Ford’s mass production method and the development of more sophisticated engines with higher horsepower ratings were other key developments in the evolution of the modern automobile.
The modern automobile is a highly complex technical system composed of thousands of individual parts. These are arranged into systems with specific design functions, such as the braking, steering and transmission systems. Some of these subsystems are based on breakthroughs in existing technologies, such as electronic computers and high-strength plastics and alloys of steel and nonferrous metals. Other subsystems have emerged from the need to satisfy consumer demand for safety features, environmental standards and energy efficiency. These new systems have helped the automobile to mellow into an age that may be called the Age of Electronics.