Automobiles are vehicles used to transport people. They are usually driven by an internal combustion engine, using a volatile fuel such as gasoline (petrol in American English) or diesel oil. The modern automobile is a highly complex technical system, employing thousands of subsystems with specific design functions.
Automakers have a wide range of vehicles for consumers to choose from. Some models are designed for off-road use, others for highway cruising and high speed handling. Passenger cars are the most common type, but there are many specialty vehicles as well — like racecars, off-road trucks, and utility vans.
The automotive industry has a huge impact on society. It is responsible for a large portion of the world’s air pollution, and it can be a major source of climate change. However, it also provides a great deal of mobility for families and business travelers.
Almost all modern automobiles are powered by an internal combustion engine. The engine is located in the middle of the car, and it burns fuel to make the pistons move inside the cylinders. The power from the engine then goes to the wheels via a transmission.
Most people own at least one automobile, and they are a very important part of their lives. They allow them to get to work, run errands, and visit friends or family members. In addition, if you have an automobile, it can help you qualify to buy a home or other large purchases because it shows that you can afford regular payments.
The first automobiles were invented in the late 19th century by people such as Gottlieb Daimler, Karl Benz, and Wilhelm Maybach. Their 1901 Mercedes model was the first truly modern motorcar. The Cycle and Automobile Trade Journal praised it for combining state-of-the-art design with moderate price, and for providing “good road handling and high speeds”.
As automobiles developed into the most popular mode of transportation, they became increasingly sophisticated. They incorporated safety features such as seatbelts and airbags, along with advanced technology such as electronic computers and high-strength plastics.
In the early 20th century, Ford introduced innovative assembly-line production techniques at his Highland Park, Michigan plant, which would later be used by other manufacturers. He revolutionized the automobile industry, reducing its costs and making it accessible to the general public. During this time, several developments further improved the quality and performance of automobiles, including electric ignition and self-starters (developed by Charles Kettering for General Motors in 1910-1911), independent suspension, four-wheel brakes, and more. Various pistonless rotary engine designs have attempted to challenge the conventional piston-and-crankshaft layout, but none has yet found widespread success.
Today, there are more than 1.4 billion passenger cars in operation worldwide. Despite their drawbacks, such as environmental pollution and traffic congestion, most people cannot imagine life without their cars. Automakers continue to tweak engines, upholstery, and tech in an effort to make their vehicles more attractive and capable. They are also looking into alternative fuels and flying cars to keep up with consumer demand.