Automobiles are a major part of the world we live in. They allow us to get around without having to depend on the schedules of others, or the weather. It allows people to go on trips that they couldn’t do before, or spend more time with family and friends. It is also a convenience for those that need to work late or early in the day. The field of study that deals with the design and technology of these vehicles is known as automobile engineering.
The first auto-mobiles were powered by steam, but they are now mostly powered by internal combustion engines that use gasoline or diesel fuel. The engine can be located at the front or the rear of the car, but most modern cars have their engines in the back to take advantage of the greater stability that is obtained from this arrangement. The stability of a vehicle is dependent on several factors, including the distribution of weight, the height and position of the center of gravity, suspension characteristics, and the selection of which wheels are used for propulsion.
In 1883, Edouard Delamare-Deboutteville and Leon Malandin patented an internal combustion gasoline engine for use in a vehicle. They attached the engine to an old tricycle, and on its first test run it literally “shook itself to pieces.” The two inventors did not build any more vehicles.
Karl Benz invented the first practical automobile in 1885. His invention was based on the Otto engine, but it was mounted in a new vehicle designed from the ground up rather than fitted into an existing carriage. Benz’s engine was smaller, faster, and more efficient than any other at the time.
Benz’s success inspired other engineers and manufacturers, such as the Frenchmen Emile Levassor and Armand Peugeot. The first car manufacturers (as opposed to engine inventors who built entire motor vehicles for sale) were all European, and they followed a similar path as Daimler: building their cars from the ground up rather than adapting another vehicle to house their engines.
The automobile revolutionized the way we live. It gave people access to jobs and places to live that were previously unavailable, and it contributed to the rise of leisure activities. But it also brought harm to the environment, with exhaust from cars contributing to air pollution and consuming undeveloped land. It also led to the creation of laws and regulations, such as safety features like seatbelts and highway rules.
The automobile also empowered women. In 1916, Nell Richardson and Alice Burke drove across the country to promote their campaign for women’s suffrage by decorating their cars with “vote for women” banners. In the following years, more and more women took to the road in their own cars. Today, more than half of all drivers are female, and women are well represented in many professions in the automotive industry. This is a trend that is expected to continue as the population of the world grows and as women gain more independence.