Automobiles are vehicles that use a motor to power themselves and carry passengers. They typically have four wheels and are designed to run primarily on roads. They are generally classified as passenger vehicles, whereas trucks and buses (also known as omnibuses or coaches) are vehicles that are designed to transport large numbers of people. There are also specialized vehicles for certain types of work, such as cranes at construction sites or forklifts in warehouses.
The automobile has impacted modern society in many ways. It has allowed people to move farther distances for work or recreation, and it has increased the number of jobs in industries that support the automotive industry. For example, it has resulted in the creation of motels and hotels, amusement parks and other recreation, restaurants and fast food. In addition, it has brought about changes in the way people live and work, including changing commute times and allowing workers to spend more time at home. It has also had a negative effect on the environment, because it produces air pollution and requires large amounts of fuel.
Throughout the history of the automobile, there have been numerous inventions and improvements. Some of the most important innovations have been in the engines and internal parts of the vehicle. In addition, there have been technological advances in safety features and comfort. Today, most automobiles are powered by internal combustion engines that burn gasoline, diesel fuel or kerosene to produce energy. The engine’s power is transferred to the wheels through a transmission system. Most modern automobiles use water-cooled internal combustion engines, but some still have air-cooled engines.
Before the advent of the automobile, there were some forms of self-propelled vehicles. The French engineer Joseph Cugnot built a three-wheeled, steam-powered carriage in 1771 that could travel up to 3 mph (5 kph). In the United States, Richard Trevithick designed a steam-driven carriage in 1801.
Karl Benz invented the first modern automobile, which used a four-stroke type of internal combustion engine, in 1885. His vehicle was called the Benz Patent-Motorwagen. Benz’s invention was followed by other inventors who made similar designs. Then, in 1910 Henry Ford began producing the Model T at his Highland Park plant in Michigan. Ford revolutionized car production by using an assembly line, which allowed him to make cars more cheaply and sell them to a larger audience.
Since the 1920s the automobile has been one of the most important forces in American culture. It has helped to create a new consumer goods-oriented society and fueled rapid growth in ancillary industries such as steel and petroleum. In 1982, it was the leading source of jobs and provided one out of every six dollars in value of products produced in the country. However, as the industry has grown and changed, there have been negative effects on the environment, the economy and the quality of life. It has fueled consumerism, contributed to the decline of the family farm, and raised concerns about safety and security.