The History of Automobiles

Automobiles refer to motor vehicles which operate without the need for external motivating power, such as a horse or human. They are usually four wheeled, have a cabin for passengers, and most commonly are powered by internal combustion engines which use a volatile fuel as their energy source. Modern automobiles are complex technical systems consisting of many subsystems with specific design functions.

The history of the automobile dates back several hundred years, when Christiaan Huygens invented a type of internal combustion engine fueled by gunpowder. By the end of the nineteenth century, inventors had developed steam, electric, and gasoline powered cars that could move independently. The first commercially successful gasoline powered automobile was introduced by Karl Benz in 1885. Other designers and engineers improved on the basic design.

By the early 1900s, middle class incomes had grown enough to allow a large number of Americans to afford to purchase cars. The automobile revolutionized society in many ways. Families could vacation in distant locales, rural dwellers could shop in cities, and teenaged boys had a newfound freedom to drive. The social effects were just as significant, with the automobile allowing people to visit friends, shop, and take in leisure activities.

Cars were also a catalyst for economic development, boosting the production of a host of other products. Companies such as Ford and GM specialized in mass production of automobiles to bring them within reach of most buyers. This in turn led to dozens of spin off industries. The demand for vulcanized rubber increased, as did road construction. The auto industry brought in a new era of efficiency and the rise of American manufacturing.

Despite the positive social changes that occurred with the advent of the automobile, there were also negative effects. Traffic congestion and fatalities soon brought about government requirements for safety features like seatbelts and highway rules. Exhaust emissions from gas-burning cars contributed to pollution and depleted the world’s dwindling oil supplies. The automobile contributed to a shift in family lifestyles, with women leaving their homes more often for jobs and recreation.

Today, the automobile continues to play a major role in the world’s economy and culture. It is estimated that there are over 590 million cars in the world, and more than 140 million of them are in the United States. The vast majority of these are operated by private citizens, with just a few thousand being used for transportation purposes by the government or other commercial entities. The main components of an automobile are the chassis, the engine, and the transmission system. The chassis is essentially the frame, or skeleton, of the vehicle and supports all other components. The engine is what makes the wheels move, while the transmission system transfers the engine’s power to the axles, which then spin the wheels. A suspension system is a component of the chassis that absorbs vibrations caused by up and down movement of the wheels. These vibrations are transmitted to the passenger compartment and can cause discomfort, especially if the vehicle is driven over rough roads.