An automobile is a self-propelled vehicle that can transport people and other objects. It is a four-wheeled vehicle that usually runs on roads, but it can also be used off-road.
The word “automobile” derives from the Greek word “auto” meaning self and the Latin word “mobilis” meaning moving. However, the term has been used to mean several other vehicles, including a motorcycle.
In the 19th century, there was great interest in the development of a self-propelled carriage. However, the concept was not practical because of water and steam supply issues. Instead, steam-powered road vehicles included steam buses, phaetons and rollers.
A three-wheeler with steerable front wheels was built in 1884 by Edward Butler. He built the car using a horizontal single-cylinder gasoline engine with a drive chain to the rear wheel.
In the late 19th century, an attempt to design a steam-powered vehicle was made. But the Puffing Devil road locomotive was unable to maintain a sufficiently high steam pressure for long periods. This led to the Locomotive Acts of 1865.
The invention of the automobile was the result of a series of new technical breakthroughs and innovations. These innovations made it possible to produce a self-propelled vehicle that could move from one location to another. As such, the modern automobile is a complex technical system consisting of thousands of component parts.
Automobiles are produced by manufacturers around the world, and their designs vary depending on the intended use. Most vehicles are manufactured to carry a small number of passengers. Some are used to transport a large number of people. Whether the vehicle is intended for commercial or personal use, it must meet certain requirements.
For example, vehicles for limited-access road systems require more passenger comfort options and optimized high-speed handling. They also need to be durable enough to withstand heavy overloads. Alternative power systems such as hydrogen vehicles and plug-in electric vehicles are being developed.
The automobile’s development has benefited from new industrial materials and aircraft-inspired body styles. Its instrument panels and grilles have been transformed with chrome. Similarly, its hood ornaments and headlamps have been enhanced by innovative aerodynamics.
During the 20th century, the automobile was widely distributed. It was available in a variety of models, and it was able to replace horse-drawn carriages. However, the Asian economic crisis in the early 1990s sparked a 70 percent drop in production. Vehicle sales steadily recovered, reaching a record of 1.43 million vehicles in 2012. Moreover, low interest rates and pent-up demand after the flooding of late 2011 helped boost vehicle sales.
The automobile’s evolution has also been influenced by safety legislation and by breakthroughs in existing technology. Manufacturers are constantly working to improve the drivetrain, chassis and emission-control systems. Furthermore, they are introducing more innovative designs.
Nowadays, the automobile is considered the primary family transportation. Around 70 million vehicles are produced each year. Approximately one-quarter of the world’s passenger cars are produced in the United States. One-half of the world’s passenger cars are made by foreign manufacturers.