Automobiles, also known as cars, are the main form of transportation on the planet for most individuals. They provide independence, freedom and the ability to get where you want to go when you want to go there. They have helped shape society and economy around the world. The automotive industry has become the basis for many different industries and has created a significant impact on our lives. Automobiles are the result of over a century of innovation and development.
The first automobiles were essentially horse-drawn carriages with engines installed. Since then, they have developed into sophisticated vehicles that are used for a variety of purposes, including personal transport and work. Today, there are more than a billion automobiles worldwide, and they continue to grow in popularity.
Modern automobiles are complex technical systems that incorporate a variety of subsystems with specific design functions. The basic components include the engine, fuel system, transmission, electrical and lubrication systems, and the chassis. Each of these systems is designed to interact with and support the other automobile systems. The vehicle’s body must meet certain standards of safety and appearance as well.
Thousands of individual parts make up the modern automobile, and these parts are arranged into several semi-independent systems. For example, the engine—the heart of the automobile—comprises pistons and cylinders that are filled with gasoline or diesel fuel and exploded by an electric spark to drive the car’s wheels. The cooling and lubrication system comprises an analogous circulatory system that delivers water, oil, and fuel to the engine to keep it running smoothly.
The suspension system in an automobile includes springs and shock absorbers. The springs suspend the automobile above each wheel, and the shock absorbers reduce the impact of road surface variations on the chassis. Most modern automobiles use independent front suspension, which allows each wheel to respond independently of the other wheels, reducing vibration and improving handling.
Many factors affect the design of an automobile, and the resulting car may vary greatly depending on its intended purpose. Automobiles built for off-road use must be durable and have a high resistance to overloading, while those designed for high-speed driving require passenger comfort options and optimized engine performance for fast, limited-access roads.
Automobiles are subject to a variety of problems and accidents that have caused deaths and injuries over the years. Some of these accidents have been the result of human error, such as Joseph Cugnot’s crash of his steam-powered “Fardier” into a wall in 1771. Other accidents have been the result of faulty automobile parts, such as defective tires and airbags. Other issues have included the aging of the automobile industry, and the draining of global oil supplies. In the 1930s, the market for automobiles began to reach saturation and technological stagnation, while automakers focused their production on producing for the war effort. After the war, issues revolved around non-functional styling and safety concerns, the question of whether cars were actually good for the environment, and the emergence of Japanese automobiles as major competitors.