Automobiles are powered by internal combustion engines and fueled most commonly by gasoline, a liquid petroleum product. Invented in the late 1800s and perfected by engineers like Karl Benz, the automobile revolutionized transportation in many ways. By 1920, it had replaced the horse-drawn carriage as a primary means of personal transportation in the United States. In addition to bringing people and goods together in greater numbers and speed, it helped create new industries and jobs such as steel and machine tool makers, as well as supply chains for fuel, tires, and other car parts. It also gave rise to leisure activities and services such as restaurants, hotels, amusement parks, and fast-food chains.
A single ride on a public bus can cost hundreds of dollars or more, so owning a car provides significant savings. It is also convenient and allows a person to travel long distances more quickly than by any other method. People can also travel to places that are impossible to reach by a train or a bus. There are even special vehicles designed to travel over rough terrain such as mountain ranges.
There are about 1.4 billion cars in operation worldwide, and they cover more than three trillion miles (five trillion kilometers) on average each year. This vast number of automobiles means that there are many different types of cars, each with its own design and features. Some of these automobiles are powered by electricity or by hydrogen peroxide, while others are fueled by gasoline, natural gas, or other fossil fuels. The design of the modern automobile was largely determined by factors such as available raw materials, cost, and consumer demand.
One of the most important inventions in the history of the automobile was the assembly line, which enabled a much greater production rate. This allowed car manufacturers to lower the price of their cars and make them affordable for middle class families. Other major changes in automotive technology were improvements to the engine, transmission, brakes, and suspension. Other technical developments include the use of computerized navigation systems, advanced safety devices, and alternative energy sources.
Research and development engineers continue to seek ways to make automobiles more efficient, quieter, faster, and safer. They are also looking for ways to make them more environmentally friendly and reduce their carbon footprint. These efforts are often done in conjunction with government agencies. Some of these initiatives include hybrid and electric vehicles, as well as clean-air technologies. The automobile has become a symbol of freedom, and it continues to shape the world’s culture as people travel to work, school, shopping, and social events. This article is part of a series on automotive industry topics. The full list can be found here.