Automobiles, also called cars, are motor vehicles used to transport people. They usually run on roads, seat one to eight people, have four wheels, and use gasoline or another liquid fuel for propulsion. Many automobiles are designed for speed, while others are built for comfort or fuel efficiency. They also require a range of safety features to protect the passengers. Thousands of individual parts make up the modern automobile, which is often compared to the human body in its complexity. These parts are arranged into several semi-independent systems to perform functions similar to the human body’s organs.
The most important function of an automobile is to provide a means for the driver to move from one location to another. The car’s engines, batteries, and electrical system are necessary to give the vehicle its initial push from a stop. The engine provides power to the car’s tires, which are the only parts of the car in direct contact with the road. The tires must be able to absorb the shock of bumps and variations in the road surface while providing enough friction to keep the vehicle moving.
To achieve this, the suspension of an automobile consists of springs and shock absorbers. The springs, similar to the bones in a human body, support the weight of the automobile, while the shock absorbers, which are like the heart in the human body, control the movement of the springs by dampening them with tubes and chambers filled with fluid. The wheels, steering, and brakes of an automobile depend on the performance of these suspension systems to maintain stability.
The earliest automobiles were horse-drawn carriages with gasoline engines added. Karl Benz was credited with inventing the first car, which he patented in 1885. The Benz Patentwagen was the world’s first automobile to be made in large numbers and sold for commercial use. It was driven in a public event by Bertha Benz, whose husband had constructed it, for 106 kilometers (about 65 miles).
While the invention of automobiles has revolutionized the way people live and travel, they have not come without drawbacks. The automobile encourages a lifestyle of sprawl, which degrades the environment and promotes traffic congestion that tends to immobilize the automobiles themselves. Automobiles are expensive to own, including the cost of a vehicle, maintenance and fuel costs, borrowing fees, insurance, and taxes. They also generate pollution and contribute to the health care costs of their owners. Moreover, the societal costs of automobiles include the need for highway infrastructure, emergency services and the burden on society imposed by accidents and injuries.
The safety of automobiles is a major concern for most governments and consumers. Some measures taken to increase the safety of automobiles include seat belts, which reduce the number of fatalities caused by unrestrained passengers, airbags, and structural changes such as crumple zones. These measures are not always successful, however, as human drivers can make mistakes and the physics of automobiles often fail to predict collisions.