Automobiles are wheeled vehicles for carrying people and designed primarily for use on roads. They typically have four wheels and seats for one to seven passengers. They are powered by internal combustion engines and use gasoline as fuel. They are a major mode of transportation in most countries.
The automobile revolutionised human mobility and transformed societies. It allowed individuals to travel rapidly over long distances and reorganised production and distribution systems around the flexible movement of goods made possible by trucking companies. However, the automobile has also given rise to sprawl (i.e. straggling, low-density development that degrades landscapes) and has brought with it a host of problems such as traffic congestion, air pollution and health care costs related to accidents.
It is important to understand the benefits of owning a vehicle, as well as the costs. It is true that you may have to pay for repairs, maintenance, insurance, gas, depreciation and taxes, but if you drive sensibly and obey road rules, an automobile can save you time and money in the long run compared with using taxis or public transportation. In addition, the safety of your family is a big advantage of owning a car.
A car allows you to control when you leave and arrive, so that you can keep your schedule. This is especially useful for parents who have to transport children back and forth to school, sports events, etc. It also eliminates the worry of missing buses or trains and having to rush, which can be stressful for your children. Finally, the car gives you a sense of independence and freedom that other modes of transport cannot offer.
Automobiles require many different systems in order to function, including the engine, transmission, steering and braking system, cooling and lubrication systems, electrical systems, and the chassis. The chassis, which is like the skeleton in the body, supports the other systems and provides safety, comfort and protection from the elements for the passengers.
The earliest automobiles were powered by steam, electricity, or water. Gasoline internal combustion engines became dominant in the 1910s. However, it was not until the mid-1860s that Siegfried Marcus built a crude vehicle that used a two-stroke internal combustion engine fueled by gasoline. In 1870, Karl Benz improved on Marcus’s design and patented his automobile with an internal combustion engine fueled by gasoline.
Automobiles have many problems that can lead to death or serious injury, such as human drivers who make mistakes and wheels that lose traction when the vehicle is braking or turning. Significant reductions in deaths and injuries have come from the introduction of safety belts, airbags and laws requiring occupants to wear seatbelts. Structural changes such as side-impact protection bars have also reduced the effects of collisions. However, cars can be very dangerous even when driven carefully.