Automobiles are a major mode of transportation for passengers and goods. They are a symbol of modernity, freedom and individualism. They can take people and things over long distances more easily than public transport. They also allow people to travel outside their city or town and visit different places in the country. They are also useful for work purposes, such as transporting heavy loads. The branches of engineering which deal with the design, manufacture and technologies of these vehicles are known as automobiles engineering.
The modern automobile was invented in the late 1800s and was perfected in Germany and France by engineers like Karl Benz. The American businessman Henry Ford improved the manufacturing process, making it possible to mass-produce cars and make them affordable for middle class families. By 1920, Ford, General Motors and Chrysler dominated the market. The automobile spawned new industries and created many jobs. It also changed the world’s culture, with the development of new leisure activities and services such as hotels, restaurants and amusement parks.
Today, there are 1.4 billion automobiles in operation worldwide. In recent years, they have become the primary mode of family transportation. In the United States, there are more than three trillion miles (five trillion kilometres) traveled each year by passenger cars.
Most automobiles burn a fuel to generate electricity which makes their engines run. The most common fuel is gasoline, which is a fossil fuel. These engines create emissions which can harm the environment, especially in large cities. Many modern automobiles are designed to be more fuel-efficient. Some even use electric motors to provide power.
Having an automobile is important because it allows people to go places in comfort and privacy. It can also save time and money when traveling long distances. It can also be useful in an emergency. For example, an automobile can be used to get to a doctor’s office when it is not safe or convenient to walk or take a bus.
Autos can be driven on paved roads, but off-road vehicles are also available for driving in rough terrain. These vehicles require special tires that can grip the ground well, and have strong suspension systems to cope with off-road conditions.
The first automobiles were powered by steam, electric power or internal combustion engines. Steam automobiles were expensive and slow, while electric cars had a limited range and recharging stations were difficult to find. Gasoline-powered automobiles dominated the market until manufacturers began to place a higher value on questionable aesthetics and nonfunctional styling than on economy, safety and quality. With the introduction of government-imposed standards for safety and pollution and escalating oil prices, the era of the gas-guzzling road cruiser ended. Now, Americans are offered hundreds of models of functionally designed, fuel-efficient and low-emission vehicles.