Automobiles, also known as motor vehicles, are a major form of personal transportation in many countries. Usually having four wheels, they are powered by an internal combustion engine, most often fueled with gasoline (petroleum), which is then used to drive the vehicle’s wheels. The automobile is a symbol of modernity, and it is considered to be one of the most universally recognized and popular of all modern inventions. There are several branches of engineering which focus on the manufacture and technology of automobiles.
Automobiles have revolutionized the world by enabling people to move about their cities and villages with relative ease. They have opened up new jobs and possibilities for people and given them access to the outside world in a way never before possible. They have become a major part of the economy and are the dominant means of transport aspired to by people throughout the world.
The automotive industry has a long history, with its origins in the late 17th century when Dutch scientist Christiaan Huygens invented an internal-combustion engine sparked by gunpowder. However, the automobile did not take off until 1886, when Karl Benz designed and built his first petrol-powered car. In that year, Bertha Benz took her husband’s car on its first public road trip, an event which promoted the automobile as a practical, useful and convenient means of transportation.
During the early 1900s, cars began to take on a national and cultural role as a symbol of independence and progress. For instance, during the 1916 women’s suffrage movement, two women, Nell Richardson and Alice Burke, drove around in an automobile decorated with banners promoting “votes for women”.
Cars were seen as environmentally friendly as they did not pollute the streets like horses and allowed more people to get to remote natural areas. They also gave people the freedom to live anywhere they wished and made it easier for them to visit friends and relatives far away.
With the advent of mass production methods, Ford, General Motors and Chrysler became the world’s top automobile producers during the 1920s. Their production scales allowed them to offer low-cost automobiles, and they introduced many innovations which now are commonplace in all automobiles.
The automotive industry has continued to evolve as manufacturers strive for more fuel efficiency and safety. Research and development engineers work to improve the vehicle body, chassis, engine, transmission and electrical systems. Some of these advances include electronic ignition and electric self-starters, independent suspension and four-wheel brakes. A more recent innovation is the gasoline-electric hybrid engine, which combines a conventional internal combustion engine with an electric motor. This allows the vehicle to operate at lower speeds when cruising, and recharging the battery while the vehicle is in electric mode. It has become a common feature in the latest models of automobiles. This type of engine is expected to eventually replace the conventional gas or diesel engine in most passenger vehicles. The demand for automobiles continues to rise worldwide. However, if demand for these vehicles keeps rising at current levels, serious environmental and energy problems will likely arise that could jeopardize the future of the automobile industry.