Automobiles are vehicles that use a combustion engine to propel themselves and provide electricity for lights. They have become a vital part of modern life, and are a symbol of both the promise and the pitfalls of our times. Modern automobiles consist of complex technical systems with thousands of subsystems designed for specific functions. Some of these subsystems have developed from breakthroughs in existing technology, such as electronic computers and high-strength plastics, and others have emerged from new technologies, such as fuel cells and new alloys of steel and nonferrous metals.
The scientific and technical building blocks of the modern automobile date back several hundred years to the invention of the internal combustion engine by Dutch scientist Christiaan Huygens in the late 1600s. By the end of the 19th century, Karl Benz had developed the first gasoline-powered car. Henry Ford invented mass production methods that greatly reduced the cost of the Model T, enabling millions of people to afford the automobile and experience its benefits for themselves.
ACCESS TO JOB AND FAMILY: Owning an automobile enables you to get to work and school more quickly, take shopping trips when it is convenient for you, and visit family and friends on short notice. In addition, you can use your own vehicle to travel for recreation and business.
AUTOMOBILES SUPPORT JOBS: Millions of Americans work in the automotive industry in plants that make and assemble cars, trucks and other vehicles. In addition, many millions more work at gas stations and other services that motorists stop at on their way to and from destinations. A strong auto manufacturing sector is essential to a robust U.S. economy.
SAFETY: The design and safety features of automobiles are constantly improving to protect passengers from accidents. They also include devices that help prevent unauthorized entry and theft of the vehicle, as well as features to keep drivers alert and focused on the road ahead. In addition, passengers are required to fasten their seat belts and children must ride in child seats.
STABILITY: The stability of an automobile depends on the distribution of its weight between the front and rear wheels, the height of its center of gravity, the suspension characteristics and other factors. A successful automobile design addresses these issues by balancing passenger comfort and performance with vehicle handling and stability on high-speed roads.
A COMPASSIONATE CAR: The design of an automobile can show its owners’ tastes and preferences, and can enhance their status in the community. The most popular models come in a variety of colors and trim levels, which are chosen to reflect the lifestyle of the consumers.
Today, the automotive industry is a multibillion-dollar global enterprise. It employs millions of people in cutting-edge facilities that build billions of dollars worth of cars, trucks and other vehicles every year. They then use major transportation infrastructure to ship finished products to points across the country and around the world. The auto industry supports a diverse range of jobs, from engineering and development to design and marketing, as well as supporting local communities with restaurants, shops and service centers.