An automobile is a self-propelled vehicle, usually four-wheeled, which is used for passenger transport. They can also be commercial vehicles. Automobiles are powered by an internal combustion engine or an electric motor. They are considered a complex technical system with thousands of component parts. Various subsystems are employed by manufacturers to enhance the performance of their cars. These include the engine, the drivetrain, chassis, and the body. The load-carrying capacity of the vehicle is also taken into consideration in the classification process.
During the 19th century, a number of inventors attempted to create an automobile. Among them, Ernest Michaux of France created the first motorcycle. Other inventors then followed with their own designs. Eventually, the automobile industry became a global enterprise.
Before the automobiles were invented, people relied on velocipedes and other bicycle-like contraptions to move. While these vehicles were not particularly fast, they were easy to operate and relatively cheap to maintain. In addition, they allowed people to travel long distances. As a result, they were widely adopted. However, they were mostly suited to wealthy individuals and were made by hand.
After World War II, the demand for motor vehicles increased. With the introduction of the internal combustion engine, manufacturers were able to build cars that were faster, cheaper, and more reliable. They also began to produce new designs more often. Aside from their use in transportation, the automobiles were instrumental in the rise of leisure activities.
By the late twentieth century, the automobile was the main mode of transportation in the United States and Europe. It gave people access to jobs and places of residence. Additionally, it brought about new laws and safety features. Moreover, it enabled women to drive. When they drove, they were able to demonstrate their strength and identity.
Initially, there were only three types of vehicles available. The earliest was a three-wheeler with a steerable front wheel and a horizontal single-cylinder gasoline engine. Later, there was the Stout Scarab, a vehicle with a rear engine and a streamlined beetle-like shape.
Besides the three-wheeler, there were also vehicles with six or more wheels. Heavy motor vehicles are generally trucks or trailers. Depending on the weight distribution and the intended purpose of the vehicle, its design can vary.
Typically, the automobiles are powered by a gasoline or diesel engine. It is also possible to use a CNG or propane-powered engine. Several court cases have ruled that motorcycles do not qualify as automobiles. However, this is not always the case.
Today, the term “automobile” is sometimes used in a vague manner. Some manufacturers refer to the automobile as a motor car, and the definition may be a little more precise. Many people use the term interchangeably.
To date, around 70 million passenger cars are manufactured worldwide. Although most of them are built in the United States and Europe, one-quarter of them come from foreign producers. Major European and Asian manufacturers include Volkswagen, Toyota, Hyundai, and BMW.
Nowadays, automobiles are very popular. Millions of people use them to travel across the world. Moreover, they are an integral part of modern society.