Automobiles are motor vehicles designed primarily for passenger transportation and powered most often by an internal combustion engine fuelled by gasoline, a liquid petroleum product. The automobile is one of the most universal of modern technologies and a vital component of everyday life, with more than 73 million cars sold worldwide in 2017.
Karl Benz is generally credited with inventing the first automobile, but the idea had been around for several hundred years by the time his Model T went on sale in 1910. The car was a costly item for the average American family, but Henry Ford lowered the price by using the assembly line, making the automobile affordable for many middle class families.
The automobile revolutionized America’s economy and society. Its popularity created many new industries and jobs as people sought out goods and services to fill their newfound mobility. Demand for vulcanized rubber rose, and road construction became a huge industry. The automobile also opened up new leisure activities for Americans. Cities could grow to include more restaurants, hotels and amusement parks and rural areas could grow into towns with access to the city. The car allowed families to spend more time together on vacation. Women were able to participate in jobs outside the home, such as driving and shopping. And young couples could explore the world together and expand their social circles with friends who lived further away from them.
Having your own automobile also opens up more possibilities for work, giving you the ability to travel for business or attend seminars and conferences. And having a car means you can visit relatives in other cities or countries, as well as travel to different parts of the country for recreational purposes. And if you have children, having a vehicle allows you to take them on family vacations or trips to visit friends.
As with any invention, the automobile has brought drawbacks as well. Traffic jams and fatal accidents prompted calls for licensing and safety regulations. And the pollution from gasoline-burning engines and exhaust was a significant environmental concern.
The automotive industry continues to evolve with new innovations, such as electronic controls and advanced safety systems. But there are still basic needs that must be met, such as cost-efficient manufacturing and clear visibility for all drivers.
As you can see, the automobile is a very complex technical system with many subsystems that have specific design functions. To keep pace with the competition, engineers and scientists continue to push the limits of automotive technology.