What Are Automobiles?

Automobiles are a large class of wheeled vehicles used to transport people. They are usually four-wheeled and powered by internal-combustion engines that use a volatile fuel for propulsion. Modern automobiles are complex technical systems that consist of thousands of component parts. Each part serves a specific function. The components are organized into subsystems that work together to drive the car and make it safe and comfortable for passengers. The design of each subsystem is influenced by breakthroughs in technology and new scientific discoveries.

The building blocks of the modern automobile have been in development for hundreds of years. In the late 1600s, Dutch scientist Christiaan Huygens developed a type of internal engine sparked by gunpowder to power a horseless carriage. The automobile became a reality by the end of the 19th century. Early steam, electric and gasoline-powered cars competed for market share. Steam-powered cars were able to reach high speeds, but they had a limited range and required time for heating. Electric cars had the advantage of being able to be driven for long distances without having to stop for recharging, but they could not accelerate quickly enough to be competitive. Gasoline-powered cars were the winner and soon dominated the streets and highways of Europe and America. American automakers innovated production techniques that allowed the manufacture of millions of cars. Henry Ford, in particular, streamlined production by using an assembly line and by making his Model T available at a price that most middle-class families could afford.

OPENS THE WORLD: Having access to a motor vehicle makes it possible to travel long distances in relatively short periods of time. This opens up many job possibilities and allows for greater flexibility in where a person chooses to live in relation to his or her career. It also allows for greater opportunities to visit friends and family. It would be nearly impossible to survive in today’s society without a car.

THE DASHBOARD: The dashboard of an automobile is a panel that shows the driver information such as the speed, engine RPM, oil pressure and temperature. The best dashboards are designed to be user-friendly, attractive and functional. A good dashboard should have clear visibility and easy-to-read displays. The design should be cost-effective to keep production costs low.

TECHNOLOGY: Automobiles are becoming increasingly computerized. Some day, they may even be able to drive themselves! In fact, some companies are already selling cars that have autonomous features. This technology will be perfected over the next decade and will become more affordable as the industry continues to evolve.

Automobiles are an important element of the modern society, but they do not necessarily act as a progressive force for change. There are other forces in the world that are charting a future beyond the era of automobiles. These include the electronic media, the laser, and the robot.