An automobile, or car, is a wheeled vehicle that uses an internal combustion engine (also called a motor) to propel itself and carry passengers. Most modern automobiles burn petroleum-based fuel, such as gasoline or diesel oil, to make their engines run. The power generated by these engines drives a set of gears that rotate the wheels to make the automobile move. Automobiles can be equipped with various types of seating, from two-person sedans to roomy minivans. Most cars have fixed roofs, but sportier models may feature convertibles that allow the roof to be opened for an open-air drive.
AUTOMOBILES OPEN UP THE WORLD
With the advent of the automobile, people were able to travel long distances in comfort and safety, opening up new employment possibilities and social connections. They could shop in suburban malls or visit relatives in faraway towns. The automobile also helped revitalize the steel industry and the ancillary industries that supply it, such as the oil and gas industries.
However, automobiles can also create problems: their increased use created traffic congestion, and the pollution from their exhaust pipes contributed to climate change. In the postwar period, automotive engineering was subordinated to questionable aesthetics and nonfunctional styling at the expense of economy, safety and reliability. Quality deteriorated to the point where, by the 1960s, American automobiles were being delivered to retail buyers with an average of twenty-four defects per vehicle.
The first automobiles were developed in the late 1800s. In 1883 Edouard Delamare-Deboutteville and Leon Malandin of France attached an internal combustion engine to a tricycle, but during the vehicle’s first test it burst into flames. Gottlieb Daimler of Germany later built a car that used a four-stroke, liquid-fueled engine. Daimler’s Stahlradwagen, exhibited in Paris in 1889, contained numerous innovations.