An automobile (also motorcar, car or auto) is a type of vehicle that is designed to be used for transporting passengers. The term is usually used to refer to four-wheeled vehicles that are powered by their own internal-combustion engine, but it can also be applied to two-wheeled vehicles.
Automobiles are built in many different types and shapes. Some have seating for only one person, while others can carry a large number of people. Some are made for sports, while others are mainly used for everyday transportation.
A modern automobile is a complex technical system that employs thousands of component parts with specific design functions. Some of the subsystems include a chassis, wheels and steering assembly, suspension, brakes, body, electrical systems, and fuel supply.
The invention of the automobile has been credited to German inventor Karl Benz, who patented his Benz Motorwagen in 1886. It was the first automobile to use an internal combustion engine and became commercially available in 1888. It was also the first to be driven by an actual human being.
It changed the way that people traveled and was instrumental in the development of the modern city with its surrounding industrial and residential suburbs. It also stimulated participation in outdoor recreation, and it ushered in the modern age of mass tourism, resulting in new industries such as service stations and roadside restaurants.
In the United States, the automobile industry developed quickly to become the world’s largest supplier of industrial products and a major source of employment in the twentieth century. It was an important force in the creation of a consumer goods-oriented society, and by the early 1950s it had overtaken the textile, coal and oil industries as the leading source of income and employment.
Today’s automobiles are designed to run primarily on roads and have seat configurations that range from one to seven people, typically with four wheels. In most cases they are propelled by an internal-combustion engine that uses a volatile fuel, such as gasoline or diesel.
The modern automobile is a highly technological system that relies on specialized equipment and materials, most of which are produced in the United States and Europe. Those materials are mainly steel, nonferrous metals, high-strength plastics, and electronic computers.
Traditionally, the automotive industry has been dominated by American companies. However, European production of cars has surged in the past 50 years to meet growing demand.
This has led to a globalization of the industry, with China becoming the world’s leading manufacturer and user of automobiles by the end of the 1990s. Although the United States remains a dominant market for passenger cars, it has lost its position as the largest producer of vehicles and its share of world car sales has fallen.
A chassis is a frame that supports all the other components of an automobile. It must be strong enough to support the weight of the vehicle yet flexible enough to handle the shocks and tension caused by turning and road conditions.