An automobile, also called a car, is a wheeled passenger vehicle that carries its own engine for propulsion. Most definitions specify that it be designed to run primarily on roads, have seating for one to six people, and typically have four wheels.
Pros: Automobiles give people more freedom to go where they want, when they want. They can also offer greater access to jobs and other social opportunities. Additionally, they can help people travel longer distances more quickly than is possible with other forms of transportation. Cons: Automobiles require constant maintenance, can be costly to repair, and emit greenhouse gases. In addition, driving is dangerous and can lead to accidents.
Automobiles are powered by an internal combustion engine and use a friction brake at each wheel to slow or stop the vehicle. They are generally fueled by gasoline, although diesel engines (which burn heavier petroleum fuels) are used in some buses and trucks and in some family sedans.
Most vehicles have a transmission system that transfers the power from the engine to the wheels. The transmission may have a single or multiple gears, and the wheels can be driven either by the front wheels or by the rear wheels. Some vehicles, including some sport-utility vehicles, have all-wheel drive, which increases traction and handling, but requires extra maintenance.
The automobile was a powerful force for change in twentieth-century America. It helped transform a nation whose economy was based on production and manufacturing into a consumer goods-oriented society. It created new industries and jobs in the manufacture of automobiles, parts, and fuel. It accelerated development of better roads and made travel safer and more convenient.
Autos also brought people closer to the natural world by allowing them to reach remote places where few people lived before the advent of cars. In many cases, the car has been the means of escaping the pressures of daily life by seeking refuge in a peaceful corner of nature.
While the automobile was first invented in the late 1700s and early 1800s, it wasn’t until Henry Ford developed mass-production methods that it became widely available to Americans. Ford’s Model T was affordable and practical, and it helped make cars a commonplace fixture of American culture.
After World War II, the U.S. automobile industry became saturated, and technological innovation slowed. Automakers were forced to divert resources to the war effort, and the market was opened to foreign competitors with small, functionally-designed, and well-built vehicles. Today, most automobiles are manufactured in the United States, but imports from Europe and Japan continue to increase. As the world’s oil reserves deplete, manufacturers are exploring alternative sources of power for their vehicles and researching ways to reduce emissions. They are also focusing on improving the efficiency of their cars to reduce dependence on fossil fuels. This has resulted in the introduction of hybrid and electric vehicles. Despite these advances, the automobile remains a mainstay of modern society.