Automobiles, also known as cars or motor vehicles, are motor-powered, wheeled transportation devices that typically transport people rather than cargo. They are used primarily on roads and can vary in size from small, city-style cars to large, luxury SUVs. The main systems of an automobile include its engine, steering, suspension, braking system, and wheels and tires. The chassis, which is analogous to the skeletal structure of a human body, supports these systems and provides safety and comfort for passengers.
Historically, automobile design evolved through many stages. Initially, these included steam-powered vehicles, electric powered vehicles, and gas powered vehicles. Many of these early models were limited to short distances due to their inefficient engines. Later, improvements in automotive technology allowed them to travel further and faster. These innovations led to changes in the lives of people. For example, women who once could only work at home now can drive themselves to jobs outside the house. During the 1920s, this helped propel the Women’s Suffrage movement in the United States.
While automobiles provide freedom of movement for their owners, they can impose significant costs on society. They are a major cause of air pollution, which contributes to climate change. They encourage sprawl (i.e., a low-density development pattern), degrading the landscape and creating traffic congestion. And when they crash, they can damage and hurt people. Fortunately, public transportation, including buses, trains and trams, is available to get people around when automobiles aren’t practical.