Automobiles, also known as motor cars, are wheeled motor vehicles used for transport. They are usually powered by an internal combustion engine with a volatile fuel. Modern automobiles are complex technical systems with many subsystems designed to interact with and support each other.
The scientific and technical building blocks of the modern automobile go back several hundred years to the late 1600s, when Christiaan Huygens developed a type of internal combustion engine sparked by gunpowder. By the end of the 19th century, inventors such as Gottlieb Daimler, Karl Benz, and Nicolaus Otto had perfected the concept by using four-stroke internal combustion engines.
Early automotive design and production in the United States took advantage of the country’s vast land area, cheap raw materials, and low manufacturing costs. These factors helped fuel a boom in the sales of automobiles, especially among middle and working class families that could not afford to buy expensive European models.
The automobile has played a vital role in the development of modern society. It has enabled people to reach places that would be impractical or impossible to travel to on foot or by horse, thus opening up new work opportunities, expanding social circles, and allowing people to live in areas that are closer to their place of employment.
The automobile has also had its share of pitfalls. Automobile accidents cause injuries and death, and the exhaust from so many automobiles can contribute to air pollution and climate change. In addition, the need for people to drive to work often results in congestion on roads and highways, making these transportation methods less efficient than public transit or walking.