Automobiles are a means of transport used to get people from one place to another. They are propelled by internal combustion engines that use a volatile fuel such as gasoline. Automobiles are usually four-wheeled and have an enclosed cabin for passengers. Their design depends on the purpose of their use and the environment in which they operate. They have several subsystems that serve specific functions, including the engine and transmission, chassis, and braking systems. New technologies such as blind-spot monitoring systems are being added to improve safety and reduce driver fatigue.
Automobiles have many benefits compared to other modes of transportation, such as buses and trains. They provide personal freedom and allow people to work from home, attend meetings at their offices, or spend time with family members. They can also be a lifeline in an emergency. However, automobiles can also cause environmental problems by producing greenhouse gases and reducing air quality. Moreover, they can be costly to own and maintain.
The development of automobiles has had wide-ranging effects on industry and society. For example, manufacturing plants grew to meet the demand for parts and fuel, and services like gas stations opened. The United States’ vast land area and the lack of tariff barriers made it a seller’s market for cars. The American car industry developed innovative production techniques, and companies such as Ford offered state-of-the-art designs at moderate prices.
In the early 20th century, writers like Booth Tarkington decried the social costs of automobiles in novels such as Free Air (1919). Kenneth R. Schneider in Autokind vs Mankind (1971) called for a struggle to limit the negative impact of automobiles on cities and likened them to a disease.