Automobiles are a vital component of the modern world. They allow us to travel across the country, or around the globe for work, vacations, or shopping with ease. The automobile has also created new jobs in industries that produce or supply parts for cars, and services such as gas stations, repair shops, and restaurants. However, these advantages must be weighed against the cost of purchasing, fueling, and maintaining an automobile, as well as environmental impact and traffic congestion.
Few inventions have had the impact on society that the automobile has. The automobile has restructured cities, opened up vast areas of the country to housing and businesses, and allowed people to move about with greater freedom than ever before. It has also contributed to the rise of leisure activities, which have brought new services like hotels and motels, amusement parks, restaurants, and fast food chains.
The first automobiles were built in the late nineteenth century. Karl Benz invented the four-cylinder, gasoline-powered automobile in 1885. By 1910, American carmaker Henry Ford introduced mass production techniques at his Highland Park, Michigan, factory, enabling him to sell the Model T runabout for $575, or about the average annual wage of an American worker at the time. This made automobiles affordable for middle-class families, and automobile ownership became a reality in the United States.
Automobiles have influenced many aspects of the modern world, including city planning, the design of buildings, and the organization of public services such as police, fire, and utilities. They have opened up new opportunities for individuals, but have also contributed to sprawl (low-density, low-income urban development that degrades landscapes), pollution from exhaust, and the destruction of natural resources for building roads and cars.
Today, there are hundreds of automobile manufacturers in the world, producing vehicles in a wide variety of shapes and styles. Each manufacturer has its own engineering department to improve the performance and safety of automobiles. The field of automotive engineering includes the design and manufacture of systems such as the engine, chassis, transmission, electrical system, braking, cooling and lubrication system, and the body.
The most important part of any vehicle is the engine. An automobile engine requires electricity to start, so an electric starter motor is used to give the vehicle its initial push. An alternator is then used to recharge the battery, which supplies energy for the engine and other systems. The vehicle’s suspension system consists of springs and shock absorbers. The springs suspend the chassis above the wheels, and the shock absorbers dampen or quiet the movement of the springs by using tubes and chambers filled with hydraulic fluid. Finally, the braking system is designed to stop the car when needed. A variety of different braking systems are available, from hand-operated brake pedals to power-assisted disc and drum brakes. The most sophisticated braking system on a modern automobile uses antilock braking technology to prevent the car from skidding when it is turned off or locked in reverse.