The Evolution of Automobiles
Automobiles are vehicles that are driven by humans and powered by an internal combustion engine fueled with gasoline, a liquid petroleum product. They are one of the most universal of modern technologies and have become an integral part of the world’s economy. In 2017 alone, over 73 million automobiles were produced worldwide. The branches of engineering that deal with the manufacture and technology of automobiles are known as automotive engineering.
The development of the automobile revolutionized not only transportation in the United States but also industry and everyday life. It enabled people to travel long distances with greater freedom and comfort, thereby expanding their opportunities for work and recreation. This led to new jobs and businesses that developed to supply the demand for automobiles. Industries developed to produce the materials needed for cars, such as rubber and then plastics. Services such as gas stations and convenience stores also grew up to cater to the needs of motorists.
Many of the basic safety problems that automobiles have are due to human error, such as collisions with other drivers or objects on the road. Other factors that can lead to crashes include poor handling and stability, and an unstable center of gravity. The latter is particularly a problem in high-speed situations where the center of mass tends to shift forward as the vehicle accelerates or decelerates. The design of an automobile must take these factors into account in order to achieve safe operation at high speeds.
In terms of size, the automobile is classified according to its load-carrying capacity and the type of motor used. For example, light motor vehicles (LMV) are defined as cars, jeeps and mini vans, whereas medium-sized motor vehicles (MMV) include buses and trucks. Heavy motor vehicles (HMV) are those that have more than six wheels and are mainly used for transporting goods or for special purposes like ambulance, fire brigade and police cars.
Although the first automobiles were built by hand, the process was greatly accelerated in 1886 when Karl Benz of Germany patented his three-wheeled vehicle with an internal combustion engine. This was the first car that was designed and built as an automobile rather than as a converted carriage, boat or cart.
By the 1920s, mass production methods made automobiles available to more and more people. As a result, different makes of cars started to compete with each other in price and performance standards, while sharing certain components and mechanical parts. This trend was facilitated by Alfred P. Sloan, who established a policy for his Chevrolet company of selling different models in different price ranges by sharing the same parts. This system was later adopted by Ford and other companies. In this way, it became possible for buyers to “move up” from one make to another as their financial circumstances improved. This was a major factor in making the automobile one of the most popular and successful products in the history of mankind.