A modern automobile, or motorcar, is a four-wheeled vehicle designed for passenger transportation and powered by an internal combustion engine using a volatile fuel. It is distinguished from a carriage, which is designed for the transport of people and often small amounts of cargo, and a bus (or omnibus) or truck, which is built with larger parts to accommodate a greater number of passengers and larger loads of cargo.
The automobile is a highly complex technical system that includes many subsystems with specific design functions. These include the drivetrain, chassis; electrical systems; suspension; braking; power steering; and fuel control. The modern car is designed to be efficient in its use of energy, which is primarily the chemical potential of fossil fuels. This efficiency is achieved through the use of advanced mechanical and electrical components, including electronic computer controls, high-strength plastics, and new alloys of steel and nonferrous metals.
Automobiles are now the dominant form of personal transport, and it is difficult to imagine how we could survive without them. It is estimated that there are over 1.4 billion cars in operation worldwide and that more than three trillion miles are driven each year.
Although there are many advantages to owning an automobile, they are not without their drawbacks. For one, driving an automobile can be unsafe if you are not careful. Additionally, the cost of ownership and maintenance can be expensive.
The introduction of the automobile changed American life in many ways. It opened up new jobs and economic opportunities. It allowed people to travel farther distances, and it led to the development of new services such as hotels and restaurants. It also prompted the growth of leisure activities, such as recreation and sports. Families could now visit relatives and friends in distant cities. It helped make suburban areas possible, with their detached houses surrounded by large grass lawns.
In addition, the automobile encouraged urban dwellers to escape to the countryside and rural residents to shop in cities. This helped to create a middle class in America and a greater sense of social independence among Americans. It also facilitated changes in sexual attitudes. Teenagers gained the freedom to spend more time with their friends, and families were able to take vacations together.
The automobile also stimulated a wide range of ancillary industries to meet the demand for gas, oil, and other automotive parts. The first mass-production cars, such as the Model T made by Ford, used assembly lines to increase production and reduce the price of the car to a level within reach of most middle-class families. This change in the economy, industry, and daily life brought a host of new problems, such as pollution, congestion, and the need for traffic laws and driver’s licenses. The car also changed the lifestyle of American society, and many people consider it to be the defining feature of modern life.