Automobiles are land vehicles used to carry passengers. They have four to eight tires & are powered by an internal combustion engine or electric motor. Automobiles are often equipped with a variety of safety & control systems to reduce accidents & prevent injuries to occupants. The branch of Engineering that deals with the manufacture & technology of automobiles is known as automotive engineering. Automobiles play a major role in our lives, we cannot imagine luxuries of modern world without them. Automobiles provide people with the ability to travel long distances quickly & easily. This allows them to work in different places, meet people from many backgrounds & expand their social circles. People can also move to a new city for better employment opportunities, and to live closer to family members who may have moved there for work or educational purposes.
The word “automobile” is derived from the French prefix auto (self) and Latin words mobilis (moving). The first cars were steam-powered, but these had to be hauled by horses or other animals. By the 1860s several inventors had built successful gasoline-powered engines. The Benz and Daimler patents were issued in 1886, and Emile Levassor & Armand Peugeot of France began building automobiles with the new engines.
These vehicles have become a mainstay of modern life. They make it possible for people to live far from their workplaces and travel in a way that was not feasible before the advent of the automobile. But automobiles have some serious problems – they can be damaged in crashes, the human drivers can make mistakes that cause them to crash, and the wheels can lose traction under certain conditions.
Most of these issues are not new, but significant reductions in death & injury have been made with the invention of seatbelts & airbags. There are now laws in most countries requiring that passengers wear seatbelts, and the latest cars include many other safety features.
There are many different types of automobiles, depending on their intended purpose. Passenger vehicles, such as sedans & hatchbacks, are the most popular type of vehicle. Trucks & tempos are used to transport goods, and special purpose vehicles include ambulances & fire brigade vehicles.
The major parts of an automobile are the body, chassis, engine, drivetrain & controls. The engine is a key component, because it converts fuel into energy that drives the wheels. The amount of energy that the engine can deliver is measured in kilowatts or horsepower. The control systems are designed to keep the car moving in a straight line, avoid crashing into other cars & monitor a variety of safety & environmental conditions.
The automobile industry has a strong global presence, with production in most countries. Some of the largest producers are in Europe & Asia. Other important manufacturers are in North America, South America & Australia. In order to stay competitive, automobiles must be continually improving in terms of design & performance. New technical developments are incorporated into the body, chassis, engine, drivetrain and control systems.