Automobiles and the Automobile Industry

An automobile is a self-propelled motor vehicle that is usually driven on land and powered by an internal combustion engine that burns a volatile fuel. It is one of the most common of modern technologies and has become a part of our daily lives. The automotive industry employs millions of people worldwide. Automobiles are complicated machines that include many subsystems that work together to power the car, control and steer it and provide a comfortable interior for passengers.

Modern life is almost inconceivable without the automobile. It is a highly versatile transportation tool that enables individuals to juggle their career and family commitments, meet shopping needs and visit friends. In addition, it can save time that would otherwise be spent on transportation, allowing people to spend more time doing things they enjoy.

The scientific and technical building blocks for the automobile go back several hundred years. Christiaan Huygens developed a type of internal combustion engine sparked by gunpowder in the late 1600s, but it wasn’t until the end of the 19th century that the modern automobile became widely available. By then three forms of power had been used for cars – steam, electric and gasoline. Steam engines could reach high speeds but were hard to start and had a limited range. Battery-powered electric vehicles were more convenient but had a limited driving range and recharging stations were scarce. In contrast, the gasoline-powered automobile quickly took hold and by 1920 had overtaken the streets and highways of Europe and the United States.

During the 20th century, automobile manufacturers introduced new design features and improved safety standards. American carmaker Henry Ford revolutionized manufacturing in the 1910s by using an assembly line where workers did only one task at a time and passed parts along on a conveyor belt. This allowed him to produce a model that cost a fraction of the price of other cars and put them within the reach of middle-class families.

After World War II, automobile makers focused on improving their production methods and developing more efficient engines. The result was that many smaller automakers disappeared and the industry became dominated by major producers such as General Motors, Ford and Chrysler. In the 1970s, oil prices rose sharply and the need for fuel-efficient automobiles increased. At the same time new laws and regulations were introduced to control air pollution, energy consumption and vehicle safety.

Today, automobiles continue to be the most common form of personal transportation. The industry continues to grow and millions of people around the globe rely on cars to help them juggle their busy lives. However, the cars also cause problems such as traffic jams and accidents. They pollute the environment and contribute to global warming. Millions of people die in road accidents every year and parking space is becoming scarce in city centers.