An automobile (also referred to as a motor car, auto, or car) is a wheeled motor vehicle used for transportation. Most modern automobiles use an internal combustion engine, fueled most often by gasoline, though diesel fuel and alternative fuels are also commonly used. Other power sources for automobiles include electric motors and hybrid drives. The automotive industry is one of the largest and most important industries in the world. Automobiles have transformed the way we live, work, play and travel. They are at the heart of a new consumer-oriented society and one of the most significant forces driving change in the world.
Automobiles are a major force in the economy, accounting for one out of six dollars worth of industrial product produced in the United States, and contributing to global prosperity. The industry has also helped shape the culture and lifestyles of many people, providing them with the freedom and flexibility to pursue their personal and career ambitions.
The modern automobile combines a wide range of systems to create a functional, reliable and comfortable means of transportation. Some of the most important systems are the engine, fuel system, transmission, electrical system, cooling and lubrication systems, wheels and tires, and the chassis. The design and development of each of these systems has evolved over time, influenced by the art movements and styles of the times.
In the late nineteenth century, Karl Benz of Germany and Gottlieb Daimler of Germany fitted horse carriages with engines to develop the first automobiles. Benz’s invention inspired Emile Levassor and Armand Peugeot of France to develop their own vehicles with gasoline engines. The automobile became an important part of American life during the 1920s, when Henry Ford developed mass production techniques that revolutionized industrial manufacturing. This allowed the price of a car to drop to an affordable level for middle class families. The industry is now dominated by Japanese, European and American car manufacturers.
While the automobile is a powerful tool of mobility, it can cause problems such as air pollution, traffic congestion and road accidents. Many cities have public transport such as buses, trains or trams that can get people to where they want to go more quickly and cheaply than an automobile.
The automobile is also a symbol of the promise and potential of modern life. It enables us to move to where we want to be, to expand the boundaries of our social and business relationships, and to explore new possibilities for leisure activities. In the United States, it has changed the structure of communities, shaped the layout of cities, and created new jobs in industries like steel and petroleum. It has expanded the possibilities for work and for pleasure and brought the world closer together. It is no exaggeration to say that modern life would be inconceivable without the automobile.