Automobiles are four-wheeled vehicles that use an internal combustion engine to move. Most automobiles run on gasoline, but some use alternative fuels. They can be driven on both roads and off-road. Usually, they have seating for one to six passengers and can carry small amounts of cargo. They are often equipped with air conditioning and an alarm system. Automobiles are manufactured by a wide range of companies worldwide, and their designs and technologies continue to evolve as manufacturers seek to keep pace with consumer demands and technical advances.
It is hard for most people to imagine living without an automobile today. People use them for work and commutes, to go shopping and on family vacations. In the United States alone, there are more than three trillion miles (almost five trillion kilometres) traveled by passenger cars each year. The auto industry is one of the world’s largest and most profitable industries, providing jobs to thousands of people.
Karl Benz, a German engineer, invented the automobile around 1885. Until the early 1910s, most cars were for the rich and were hand-made by skilled craftsmen. Then Henry Ford came along and revolutionized manufacturing with the assembly line, making his Model T affordable for middle class families. Ford’s success brought automobiles into widespread use throughout the United States. The automobile has had many positive effects on American life, opening up new employment opportunities and spawning related businesses. It has also had some negative impacts, including increased pollution and destruction of natural habitats caused by driving.
Cars allow people to travel more freely, visiting places that were inaccessible before. They have also enabled women to take part in work outside the home, and they have made it possible for families to stay together on business trips. In addition, the automobile has revolutionized culture, creating new leisure activities and services such as restaurants, hotels and fast-food chains.
The automobile is a complex machine, and the engineers who design and build them need a broad range of skills. They must be able to understand the mechanics of how the vehicle works, but they must also be able to apply new technology to improve its performance and safety. They must be able to meet ever-increasing government and consumer safety standards. This has required the engineering profession to become highly specialized, with experts in areas such as engine design and development, fuel systems, aerodynamics, electronic control, braking, and vehicle crash testing.