Automobiles are wheeled motor vehicles used for the transportation of passengers or goods. They are propelled by an internal combustion engine fueled by volatile fuel such as Petrol, Diesel, CNG or Electricity. Thousands of different types of automobiles have evolved with time based on the technological development of its components. Among them, the most common ones are cars, trucks and buses. Automobiles are one of the most complex technical systems involving a large number of subsystems with specific functions like body, chassis, engine, drivetrain, control systems etc.
Automobile industry is a huge global business involving hundreds of millions of people worldwide. It is also a significant contributor to the economy of developed and developing countries. Various industries and services like fuel, oil and rubber, parts suppliers, manufacturers of automobiles, accessories and even those who make the roads and highways are involved in its production. This industry is a huge employer of skilled labor, with high wages and good job opportunities.
The automobile has revolutionized the world in many ways. It has improved our ability to travel long distances and visit friends and relatives. It has brought in leisure activities like tourism and sports. Moreover, it has given us freedom from having to depend on others for transportation.
There are several branches of engineering that deal with the manufacture and technologies of automobiles. Some of them include automotive electronics, aerodynamics, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, computer science, information technology and chemical engineering. The study and research of these disciplines is important to the advancement of automobiles.
The history of the automobile begins with a man called Leonardo da Vinci, who created designs and models for transport vehicles in the 15th century. But the actual invention of an automobile occurred in 1885/1886 when Karl Benz, of Germany, patented his first car with an internal combustion engine powered by gasoline. A few years later, Bertha Benz, wife of the inventor, drove her husband’s motorwagen for over 106 km (about 65 miles). This helped promote the vehicle and led to its commercialization.
After the first world war, automobile production increased rapidly. Companies grew to meet demand by using the assembly line concept pioneered by Ransom Eli Olds at his Oldsmobile factory in 1902. Several industries and new jobs were developed to provide supplies for the auto industry. Gas stations, service stations and convenience stores sprang up to serve the automobile population. New laws and government requirements made cars safer. Exhaust pollution from gas-burning cars became a major problem.
The design of automobiles depends largely on their intended use. Vehicles designed for off-road use require durable, simple systems and high resistance to severe overloads and operating conditions. On the other hand, vehicles designed for highway speeds require more passenger comfort options, engine performance optimization, and safety features. The location of the engine also affects these factors. There are three main engine placement systems in automobiles: front engine, mid-engine and rear engine. The front engine system has the engine over or ahead of the front axle and is weighted towards the front. The mid-engine system places the engine near the rear of the vehicle. The rear engine system has the engine behind the rear axle and is more evenly weighted.