Automobiles are a complex system of mechanical, electrical, and chemical components that function together to transport people or cargo. The arrangement and choice of these components depend on a variety of factors, including the intended use of the automobile. For example, a car designed to be economical and comfortable for local driving requires a fuel-efficient engine and an efficient cooling and lubrication system. On the other hand, a sports car designed for high speeds requires more power and an advanced suspension system. Many modern cars also contain “regenerative” brakes, which convert some of the energy of a car’s motion into electricity, and thus recharge the battery.
The automobile revolutionized daily life in the twentieth century, changing the ways people work, shop, and live. It is now possible to travel anywhere in the world in a relatively short time, and to live in places far from family and friends without relying on others for transportation. Modern life would be impossible, or at least very inconvenient, without the automobile.
The automobile was first perfected in Germany and France toward the end of the nineteenth century by such men as Gottlieb Daimler, Karl Benz, Emile Levassor, and Nicolaus Otto. It was Henry Ford, however, who made the automobile accessible to the middle class of the United States by using innovative methods of mass production at his Highland Park, Michigan, plant to produce the Model T runabout. By selling his car at a price less than the average annual wage in 1912, Ford enabled millions of Americans to enjoy the convenience of personal transportation.