Automobiles are cars, trucks, buses, vans and other passenger vehicles that use an internal combustion engine for power. The engine, or motor, sends energy to the wheels through a transmission, and this power is usually measured in horsepower or kilowatts. The vehicle is usually fueled by chemical energy found in gasoline or another type of fuel, but the automobile can also run on electricity.
The history of the automobile is a long and fascinating one. The first vehicles were essentially horse-drawn carriages that had engines added. Exactly who invented the modern automobile is a matter of opinion, but most accounts credit Karl Benz with the invention in 1885/86.
Benz designed and built the first gasoline-powered automobile, called the Benz Patent-Motorwagen. He patented the automobile in 1888, although earlier inventors, such as George Baldwin Selden, had already been granted United States patents for their own designs.
The advantages of automobiles include freedom and convenience. With a car, you can travel where you want, when you want without having to wait for buses or ride-sharing services. You can also avoid the weather and other inconveniences that can make walking or riding a bike difficult or unsafe. Having a car also allows you to spend more time with family members, as you can drive them to and from places where you all want to go without having to schedule around bus stops or public transportation.
On the downside, automobiles are linked to increased air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Most of the gases emitted by cars come from the internal combustion of gasoline, which releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. This is a significant problem, as it contributes to global warming and climate change. There are many ways to reduce automobile emissions, including using electric vehicles, hybrid vehicles, and other alternative fuels.
Automobiles can be made in a wide variety of shapes and sizes to meet different needs. The most common types are sedans, which have four doors and are considered to be more luxurious than other kinds of vehicles. Station wagons, which are longer than sedans, have more space for passengers and cargo. SUVs (sport utility vehicles) are rugged automobiles that are popular for their usefulness. Vans are large, box-shaped vehicles that can carry lots of people and cargo.
Some other types of automobiles include a convertible, which has a roof that can be opened or removed for an open-air driving experience. Sportier convertibles are called roadsters.
The design of an automobile depends largely on its intended purpose. For example, automobiles that are used off-road must be rugged with high resistance to overloading and severe operating conditions. On the other hand, automobiles that are designed for use on the highway must be safe and comfortable for passengers and provide good handling at high speeds.
Safety features in automobiles have improved substantially over the years. Most importantly, seatbelts have reduced death and injury. Other advances include absorbing external crash energy with crushable panels, and structural changes that lessen the motion of occupants during a collision.