An automobile, sometimes called a car or a motorcar, is a wheeled, self-propelled motor vehicle designed primarily for passenger transportation and typically powered by an internal combustion engine fueled with a volatile fuel. Generally, cars have four wheels, seat one to eight people and carry cargo. Automobiles are a vital part of our society. They allow us to travel freely and efficiently between our home, work, school, social events and other destinations. Without a car, many of us would find it very difficult to get around, as we could not rely on public transportation or on friends and family to give us rides.
The scientific and technical building blocks of the modern automobile go back a few hundred years to the late 1600s when Dutch scientist Christiaan Huygens invented a type of internal combustion engine sparked by gunpowder. By the end of the 1800s, inventors and engineers had developed steam, electric power and gasoline engines to propel automobiles. But until the invention of the automobile assembly line in 1908 by industrialists Henry Ford and William Durant, most auto makers produced only a few thousand cars per year.
Durant and Ford standardized production methods to reduce the time and cost of producing a car, making them affordable to middle class and working class families. The development of the Model T allowed Ford to make and sell more than a million automobiles in a single year, and it opened the way for mass personal automobile ownership.
Today’s automobile is a highly complex technical system consisting of thousands of component parts, most of which have evolved through breakthroughs in technology such as electronic computers, high-strength plastics and new alloys of steel and nonferrous metals. The subsystems are designed to perform specific design functions, some of which are imposed by environmental, safety and fuel economy regulations. Other advances are driven by consumer demand for more features and conveniences.
Automobiles are a symbol of freedom and choice. When you have a car, you can travel anywhere at anytime without having to rely on friends and family for rides. You can even use your car to run errands such as grocery shopping or picking up dry cleaning. This can save you a lot of time and money, as you do not have to spend your time waiting for a bus or taxi.
The automobile has also changed our culture. It has helped to create the “American Dream”, which is the idea that anyone can succeed in a country where opportunity is widely available. This is demonstrated by the fact that women who had previously been unable to drive became automobile pioneers. Nell Richardson and Alice Burke drove cross-country alone in their automobiles, decorated with “votes for women” banners to promote the women’s suffrage movement.