Automobiles are vehicles designed to carry two or more people and small amounts of cargo. They are distinguished from trucks (or omnibuses) which are designed to transport large quantities of cargo over long distances and from buses which are used to transport passengers or goods over shorter distances. The term automobile is also applied to automobile-related industries and technologies.
The development of the automobile as a practical and affordable means of personal transportation revolutionized both urban and rural life. It stimulated participation in outdoor recreation and created new service industry jobs at motels, gas stations and restaurant chains, and it has contributed to the growth of the tourism industry. Automobiles were responsible for the development of suburban housing and new communities, as well as for the construction of highways, one of the largest public works projects in history. They brought urban services like schools, medical care and better shopping to rural areas.
Despite a few initial hiccups, the automotive industry has made remarkable strides. The modern automobile was first invented and perfected in Germany and France in the late 1800s by Gottlieb Daimler, Karl Benz and Nicolaus Otto, among others. However, the automobile really began to grow in popularity as an alternative to the horse-drawn carriage after oil became a viable fuel and Ford invented the assembly line, making mass production possible.
Today’s automobiles are powered by a variety of different engines, from liquefied petroleum gas to electric power, gasoline, and diesel fuel. As safety standards have become more stringent, manufacturers are required to equip their cars with features such as antilock brakes, electronic stability control, and tire pressure monitoring. These systems are designed to help prevent crashes and reduce the risk of injury to passengers and pedestrians.
A variety of other innovations have improved the driving experience and the vehicle’s overall performance, including the introduction of power steering, traction control and disc brakes. Some automobiles feature a combination of these and other technologies, such as adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assist, which are becoming increasingly common as their associated costs decline.
In addition to its impact on personal mobility, the automobile has also led to dozens of other technological advancements, such as electric ignition, automatic transmission and a rotary engine (which is more efficient than a conventional piston engine but has yet to gain wide acceptance). The car has become the symbol of the promise and perils of modern life. It offers independence and freedom, but also can be a source of anxiety and stress, especially for those who depend on the use of public transportation or hail an Uber. Many people believe that modern life is inconceivable, or at least highly inconvenient, without a personal vehicle.