Automobiles are cars, trucks, motorcycles and other vehicles that people use to travel. They have four to eight tires and an engine or motor to make them move. The branches of engineering that deal with the design and manufacture of automobiles are called automotive engineering. The first automobiles were steam or electric powered but most are now fueled by gasoline. They can be driven on highways or on city streets.
The most important part of an automobile is its powertrain. This includes the engine, transmission and drivetrain. The engine is the heart of an automobile because it creates the energy that makes the wheels turn. It takes air and fuel, turns it into heat by burning, then sends the hot gases to the pistons that push down on the crankshaft. The crankshaft, in turn, drives the wheels. The amount of energy the engine sends to the wheels is measured in horsepower or kilowatts.
Once the automobile was developed, people could go far more quickly to places they needed to be. This made it possible to start businesses that provided goods and services to people. These new businesses included fast food, hotels and motels, amusement parks and other recreation, and more. Automobiles also contributed to the development of suburbs and communities with more space to live, work, and play. They also helped bring changes to government laws and regulations about driving, such as seatbelts and highway rules.
In the past, if you wanted to travel a long distance in a hurry, you had to either ride in a horse-drawn carriage or walk. But by the late 1860s, Siegfried Marcus had invented a two-stroke internal combustion engine that used gasoline as fuel. He built a crude vehicle without seats, steering or brakes but with an engine that turned the wheels.
By the late 1800s, Emile Levassor and Armand Peugeot of France began making automobiles with engines based on Gottlieb Daimler’s Stahlradwagen of 1889. These engines were more powerful than those of the early steam or battery-powered automobiles. They were also lighter, so the vehicles could travel faster and farther.
An automobile’s most critical feature is its ability to provide a rapid response in unplanned situations. A child might fall ill, an unexpected emergency might occur, or you may need to attend a meeting in a distant location. An automobile allows you to get to your destination quickly and safely, which means that the hours you would have spent on the bus or walking can be used for something else.
Many automobiles have brakes that help to stop the car and prevent it from moving when it’s parked. Some vehicles also have regenerative brakes, which turn the energy of the automobile’s movement back into electricity. This makes the car slow down more slowly than if it were using friction to stop itself. This is why a good brake system is so important for safety on the road.