Automobiles are vehicles which use an engine for power. They are used for transporting people and other goods. There are many types of automobiles. The most common are four wheeled vehicles that are powered by an internal combustion engine fueled with gasoline (petrol). Other engines can be powered by electricity, steam, or natural gas. There are also specialized “off road” automobiles which can go places that other wheeled vehicles cannot.
The scientific and technical building blocks of the automobile date back several hundred years. The first automobiles were steam engines attached to wagons in the late 18th century. These were slow and cumbersome to operate. Later, battery-powered electric cars became popular in the United States but had a limited range and recharging stations were not widespread. Finally, the gasoline internal combustion engine made a decisive breakthrough over the competing steam and electric models.
There are now more than 1.4 billion passenger automobiles in operation worldwide, and they are one of the most widely used means of transport. Modern life would be almost inconceivable without them, as they make it possible to travel long distances quickly and conveniently. They can carry a large amount of luggage, and they are often faster than walking or riding a bicycle for a given journey. In addition, they can carry more people than bicycles or buses, and in most countries are cheaper than trains or airplanes for cross-country journeys.
Automobile design is a highly complex field, with countless combinations of factors that affect performance, safety, and cost. Some of these factors are obvious, such as the vehicle’s speed and fuel consumption. Others are less apparent, such as the role of aerodynamics and suspension characteristics. Ultimately, automobile design is determined by its intended uses. Vehicles that are intended for off-road use, for example, must have durable systems that can withstand heavy overloading and extreme operating conditions. On the other hand, vehicles designed for high-speed highway transport must have optimized aerodynamics and suspension, as well as optimal handling and stability at high speeds.
In recent decades, significant improvements have been made in the safety of automobiles. Deaths and injuries have been reduced dramatically by the introduction of safety belts, laws requiring their use, and airbags. Structural changes include the use of impact-absorbing materials and the inclusion of crumple zones to reduce the impact of a collision with another vehicle or pedestrian.
In the past, the cost of an automobile was prohibitive for most families. However, the development of mass production techniques pioneered by Henry Ford and other U.S. manufacturers made them affordable for middle-class households. Today, there are more than 100 major car manufacturers in the world, producing hundreds of different models of automobiles. The underlying technology remains the same, but most cars are now assembled from modular components. This has allowed the manufacturing industry to become incredibly competitive, and the prices of automobiles continue to fall. The Automobile engineering is a branch of Engineering which deals with the manufacture of automotive vehicles.