Automobiles, a self-propelled vehicle for traveling on land, are a central part of many people’s lives. They offer a way to get from home to work or school, or to run errands in town. Some also use automobiles to travel for vacations or business. An automobile consists of several systems that must work together to operate the car safely and efficiently. The most important system is the engine, but other systems include wheels and tires, steering and suspension, cooling and lubrication systems, electrical and ignition, and the body.
Invented in the late nineteenth century, automobiles have profoundly changed human life. They have restructured cities, created jobs that are portable and flexible, enabled people to move easily from one city or region to another, spawned industries such as food trucking and taxi service, and helped create new kinds of family relationships. The design of the modern car, however, is constantly evolving to meet the needs of a growing variety of users and lifestyles.
The most recent development in automobile technology is the use of computerized systems that can control a number of the car’s functions. Some of these systems are designed to improve the car’s performance while others save fuel, provide more comfort or safety, or reduce emissions. A great number of variables affect the design of an automobile, including its size and weight, the choice of whether it is front- or rear-wheel drive, the type of engine, the layout of the chassis and other systems, and how expensive the car is to produce.