What Are Automobiles?


Automobiles, or cars, are wheeled motor vehicles that carry passengers. Most definitions of automobiles specify that they run primarily on roads, seat one to six people, have four wheels, and be powered by an internal combustion engine fueled most commonly with gasoline (or another liquid petroleum product). The scientific and technical building blocks of the modern automobile go back several hundred years, when Leonardo da Vinci created designs and models for transport vehicles.

Inventors like Karl Benz perfected the automobile in the late 1800s, but these early cars were expensive and only available to the wealthy. Engineers and businessmen like Henry Ford improved production methods to bring automobile technology within reach of middle class Americans. This led to a revolution in everyday life, as the automobile facilitated personal freedom and the growth of industries and services that supported it.

While there are many reasons why one might want to own an automobile, a major reason is for the convenience of getting to where you need to be in a timely manner. Depending on your lifestyle, you may have to travel far distances to get work or school or you may just need to be able to pick up groceries or run errands.

While the era of annually-restyled road cruisers ended with the imposition of federal standards for automotive safety (1966), air pollution and energy consumption (1965 and 1970), and oil shocks of 1973 and 1979, Detroit continues to make money on gas-guzzling “road cruisers” with poor quality and inefficient engines. These cars are a drain on the world’s dwindling oil reserves and are producing excessive carbon dioxide.