Automobiles are the most important means of transportation in modern society. In the United States alone, more than three trillion miles (five trillion kilometres) are driven each year.
Unlike horse carriages, modern automobiles are self-propelled and have the power to carry passengers. They have revolutionized the way people live, work and play. For most families, it is impossible to imagine a life without a car. The automobile is a complex system, with many different parts and systems that must function together. The arrangement and choice of these parts depends on the use of the vehicle. For example, a sports car is designed for high speeds and has enhanced steering and handling capabilities, while a station wagon is a family vehicle that must offer safety and comfort.
The automobile was first developed in Germany and France toward the end of the nineteenth century by such inventors as Gottlieb Daimler, Karl Benz and Nicolaus Otto. By 1900, they had perfected the technology of the motor car, which ran on gasoline rather than horse power or electricity.
While the automobile has revolutionized the way people live, work and socialize, it also carries with it some disadvantages. The most obvious is the need to use fuel, which produces carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, when it is burned. This is the most significant contributor to global warming.
Despite these drawbacks, it is clear that the automobile has become an essential part of modern life and that the demand for newer, safer and more comfortable cars will continue to grow as technology advances. In fact, the current automobile industry is rapidly undergoing a transformation as it moves from the Automobile Age into a new Age of Electronics.