Automobiles, also called cars, are vehicles that use an engine and a transmission to turn the wheels. They are the most popular form of transportation in most industrialized countries and are responsible for over three trillion miles (five trillion kilometers) of travel each year in the United States alone.
When designing an automobile, many factors come into play. Some are related to its intended use, such as the need for good fuel economy or comfort on short trips; others are related to the needs of its driver, such as the choice of front-wheel drive, independent suspension, or computer technology; and still others are related to its design and construction, such as the requirement for compliance with pollution control standards.
These factors will determine the arrangement, choice, and type of components that are used to create the various systems of an automobile. These will include the engine, fuel system, exhaust system, cooling system, lubrication system, transmission, and chassis.
The chassis includes the body, which is the part of an automobile that supports the engine, wheels, and tires; the steering, braking, and steering gear; and the rear axle. The chassis will interact with all other systems to help the vehicle move smoothly and safely.
An automobile’s chassis is a vital component of its performance, safety, and comfort. It must be able to handle the weight of the vehicle, respond quickly to changes in road conditions, and maintain control of the vehicle while braking.
Another important component of an automobile’s performance is its acceleration and handling characteristics. These are influenced by the distribution of weight between the front and rear axles, by the location of the engine and its relationship to the rest of the automobile, and by the suspension characteristics.
Among the most common features of an automobile are automatic transmissions, which allow the engine to be turned without shifting the driver’s foot from the accelerator. They improve the car’s performance at high speeds and are essential for driving on highways.
Other features of an automobile may be designed to improve its ability to cope with extreme loads and operating conditions, such as in off-road situations. These features can include improved suspension, better brakes, and enhanced engine power.
The manufacturing methods that enabled Henry Ford to produce his automobiles in mass quantities revolutionized the automotive industry. These techniques reduced the cost of producing a car so that more people could afford to own one.
This revolution gave rise to the automobile industry, which grew into a major economic force in twentieth-century U.S. society, and to the development of new services, such as hotels, motels, restaurants, and fast food. The automobile also changed society’s lifestyle, enabling people to spend more time on leisure activities.
The automobile’s contribution to society was a significant one, but it also created some problems for the environment. Most automobiles run on gasoline, and this releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which causes climate change. In addition, the automobile encourages sprawling development and traffic congestion. Sprawl produces a loss of valuable landscape land and reduces the quality of life in urban areas.