Automobiles are self-propelled vehicles that travel on land. They usually have four wheels and are powered by an engine that uses a volatile fuel to create mechanical energy. The automobile is a complex technical system that employs thousands of subsystems with specific design functions. The automobile has changed society and industry in many ways. It enables people to travel farther and faster than ever before, giving them more freedom of movement. It also allows them to access jobs in different places and to visit family and friends. It has created industries that supply the parts and fuel for cars, as well as services like gas stations and convenience stores.
Modern life has become almost inconceivable without the automobile. It has allowed people to go farther than they could on foot, horseback or even a train. It is possible to go to distant destinations with the use of a car and there are special “off road” vehicles that can travel over difficult terrain, although they require more fuel.
The automobile was invented in Europe and the United States in the late 19th century. American inventor Henry Ford introduced mass production techniques that made his Model T the first affordable automobile for middle-class families. It became standard in the United States and led to the development of highways and urban centers. Other countries soon followed with their own automakers.
Today there are more than 1.4 billion cars in operation worldwide. They transport more than three trillion miles (five trillion kilometres) each year.
Most are powered by gasoline, although electric motors can also be used. The combustion of the gasoline generates mechanical energy to drive the wheels and propel the vehicle. This energy is controlled by the vehicle’s engine to regulate speed and turn the car around.
Various innovations have improved the safety and efficiency of automobiles. Some improvements include seatbelts, air bags, electronic stability control and antilock braking systems. The automotive industry is continuously developing and changing, and it is hard to predict how far these changes will go.
In recent years, there has been a shift toward larger and more luxurious vehicles. This trend is likely to continue, as consumers demand more features and the manufacturers try to keep up with rising fuel costs and other expenses. However, there is still a market for smaller and more efficient cars, including hybrids that combine the best of car-like handling with SUV off-road capability.
Automobiles can cause problems if they are driven recklessly or overused. They can also contribute to air pollution if they are used too often in large cities or when too many people try to use them at the same time. Fortunately, other forms of transportation are available that allow people to travel quickly and cheaply when traffic congestion occurs. These other forms of transportation are helping to make the automobile less important and the Age of the Automobile is slowly fading into an Age of Electronics.