Automobiles are vehicles that are powered by an engine and used for transporting people and goods. Thousands of individual parts make up modern automobiles, which are classified into three basic groups based on their load-carrying capacity: Light motor vehicle (LMV) — car, jeep, minivan; Medium motor vehicle (MMV) — tempo, bus, mini truck; Heavy motor vehicle (HMV) — tractor, trailer, container, multi-axle bus. The branch of engineering that deals with the manufacturing and technology of automobiles is called automotive engineering.
The scientific and technical building blocks of the automobile date back several hundred years. In the late 1600s, Dutch scientist Christiaan Huygens invented a type of internal combustion engine sparked by gunpowder. The four-wheeled transportation vehicle known as the automobile symbolizes both the promise and the pitfalls of the modern age.
Karl Benz invented the first gas-powered automobile in 1885. Compared to the modern car, his early models looked more like an elongated tricycle and seated only two passengers. It would be several decades before the automobile came to resemble what we now consider a standard model.
At the beginning of the 20th century, steam, electric, and gasoline powered cars competed for market share in the United States. But it was not until Ransom Eli Olds debuted his assembly line at his Oldsmobile factory in 1902 and Henry Ford created the affordable Model T that the automobile really began to resemble what we know today.
While the modern automobile is a marvel of technology, it still suffers from many safety problems. Accidents can occur when human drivers are distracted, when tires lose traction, or when the vehicle rolls over. In addition, automobiles emit a lot of pollution and have the potential to degrade the landscape.
Automakers are continuously improving the safety of their vehicles to meet rising government standards. Almost every modern automobile comes equipped with a variety of safety features, including airbags, seatbelts and rearview mirrors. Some safety systems, such as stability control and blind-spot monitoring, are now mandatory. Others, such as adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assist, will become more common as their associated costs decline.
The automotive industry is a major global economic sector, providing jobs for millions of workers and supporting many services that are essential to daily life. The industry also creates innovations that benefit society as a whole, such as safer and lighter vehicles, new fuels, and more efficient engines.
Automobiles allow people to travel long distances without having to rely on trains or buses. The freedom of mobility provided by automobiles has restructured societies around the world. However, the increased speed and convenience of moving from one place to another can encourage sprawl, low-density, low-quality urban development that degrades landscapes and increases traffic congestion. Furthermore, the high price of oil and growing concerns about emissions have led to renewed interest in electric vehicles.