The modern automobile is a complex system that provides mobility and flexibility of use demanded by an enormous variety of lifestyles and industries. It is driven by a powerful engine, with many auxiliary systems that control such functions as temperature, fuel and lubrication, air conditioning and power steering. In addition to standard features like a windshield, turn signals and seat belts, the automobile incorporates dozens of different systems for adjusting speed, turning and braking. Several types of transmissions are used to adjust the ratio between engine speed and wheel torque. The basic components of a car include a chassis, drive train, suspension, wheels and axles and electrical systems. The automobile also requires safety and maintenance equipment, such as headlights, horns and emergency brakes.
The scientific and technical building blocks of the automobile go back hundreds of years. In the late 1700s and early 1800s, inventors developed steam and electric powered vehicles, but they were difficult to start and had limited range. Gasoline-powered cars became commercially successful in the early 1900s and quickly surpassed horse-drawn carriages on American roads.
As the automobile grew in popularity, it created many new industries and transformed the lives of many Americans. For the first time, people were free to travel long distances for business and pleasure without having to rely on friends, family or local public transportation. Families found that they could enjoy vacations in remote areas that were previously impossible to reach. Businesses found that they could move goods over greater distances at lower prices. In the United States, manufacturing techniques introduced by Henry Ford revolutionized industrial production and made automobiles affordable for the middle class.
Automobiles are a major part of the global economy and contribute to the world’s growing dependency on oil. They are the largest consumers of electricity in the world and consume large amounts of steel and aluminum. They have a significant effect on the environment by polluting the atmosphere and draining the world’s dwindling supply of fossil fuels. Despite these negative effects, the automobile continues to be a vital mode of transportation in most parts of the world.
The Automobile is a large machine with thousands of individual parts. Each of these parts have specific functions. Some of these parts are crucial to the operation of the whole car, while others simply add comfort or convenience. Some parts, such as the engine, are very complex and require sophisticated engineering skills. Other parts, such as the body, must be designed to meet standards for safety, efficiency, size and weight, and aerodynamics (ways to reduce friction of the airflow over the vehicle). Ultimately, the design of an automobile is a balance of all these factors. Some of the features that are desirable for improving an automobile’s performance may not be feasible because they would increase its cost or decrease its efficiency. For example, independent suspension for all four wheels improves the handling and safety of a car but requires more expensive and complicated materials.