Automobiles are one of the most common ways people get around. They are useful in cities, where it is hard to walk or ride a bicycle from place to place, and they make it easy for people who don’t live close to work or friends to get where they need to go. However, they can cause problems when too many of them drive in a small area, because traffic jams slow them down and they create pollution. Several places have public transportation systems, such as buses, passenger trains, trams and subways, that can take people where they need to go more quickly than automobiles.
The modern automobile uses an internal combustion engine to run. The engines burn a fuel, such as gasoline (or other fossil fuels), to generate power that drives the wheels of the vehicle. The power that the wheels receive is controlled by a transmission system, which has a set of gears. An automobile can also use an electric motor to drive the wheels, but this is less common.
There were many kinds of automobiles in the past. The first automobiles used steam engines, which were attached to wagons or chariots and powered them. The first steam cars were very heavy, but they got faster and more reliable as they were built.
Karl Benz is generally credited with inventing the modern automobile, which has four wheels and an internal combustion engine. He filed the patent for his Benz Patent-Motorwagen in 1886 and began production that year. Benz was not the only inventor of the car; others, including James Watt, developed their own versions in the 1800s.
Since the 1920s, almost all automobiles have been mass-produced to meet market demand. This has pushed manufacturers to develop new technologies that improve the body, chassis, engine, and control systems of cars. Examples of these advances include the electric ignition and electric self-starter, developed by Charles Kettering for the Cadillac Motor Company in 1910-1911, independent suspension, and four-wheel brakes.
Today’s automobiles come in all sizes and styles. They are often divided into classes based on their intended purpose. For example, those designed for highway driving require durable, simple systems that are resistant to severe overloads. On the other hand, those designed for off-road use need sturdy, highly optimized systems with high resistance to extreme conditions.
Most automobiles use oil, which has become a scarce resource. This has caused the prices of automobiles to rise and long lines at gas stations. It has also led to concerns about climate change, because automobiles emit carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas. Some people are working to find ways to make cars that do not use as much oil. They are also developing vehicles that use renewable or natural resources for fuel. Some are even using electric cars that run on regenerative braking. These automobiles convert the energy they generate into electricity, which can then be stored in batteries. Other companies are working to produce hybrid automobiles, which combine an internal combustion engine with an electric motor.