Few inventions of modern times have had as great an impact on human society and the global environment as automobiles. Hundreds of thousands of cars are manufactured each year and are used throughout the world as primary forms of transportation. These vehicles are powered by internal combustion engines and burn a volatile fuel that must be constantly replenished. They also create significant amounts of pollution and require extensive energy to manufacture and dispose of them at the end of their life.
The modern automobile is a complex technical system consisting of thousands of parts arranged into a series of semi-independent systems with specific design functions. These include engine, fuel, electrical and power systems, cooling and lubrication, and the chassis, which supports the suspension, steering, and braking systems. The body provides room for passengers and storage, as well as a structure to control airflow around the vehicle.
The choice and arrangement of these systems depends on the automobile’s intended use. For example, a car designed for off-road driving needs rugged systems with high resistance to overloads and extreme operating conditions. On the other hand, a sports car designed for high speed must have improved handling and engine performance as well as passenger comfort options.
The convenience of automobiles has reshaped entire societies by opening up new work possibilities and social options for people who move from one location to another to follow their careers or their families. Automobiles also allow people to cover long distances for shopping or visiting relatives in a few hours.