Automobiles are motor vehicles with wheels that mainly transport people. They are a vital part of the modern world and their widespread use has revolutionized countless industries, created new jobs and contributed to the growth of the American economy.
The automobile enables rapid long-distance movement and flexible distribution patterns, and has changed the way Americans work, shop, travel and socialize. However, the automobile has also encouraged sprawl – straggling, low-density urban development that degrades landscapes and promotes traffic congestion.
Automotive technology is used in a wide range of industrial and agricultural enterprises, from tractors, combines, pickers, sprayers, and other self-propelled machines to trucks that haul goods between market and distribution points. It has enhanced agriculture through its ability to increase the quantity and quality of our foods.
Automobiles rely on thousands of individual parts, arranged into several semi-independent systems, each performing a specific function. These components are incorporated in the design of an automobile and must meet certain standards of safety, size and weight, aerodynamics (reducing friction in airflow), and appearance.
When the automobile is designed, the arrangement and choice of these parts and systems depend on its intended use. For example, a car designed for local driving may be smaller, more fuel-efficient, and easier to maintain than a sports car, which must offer better handling, speed, and comfort.
In the United States, Ford’s moving-belt assembly line radically changed the nature of industrial manufacturing by placing reliable and inexpensive automobiles within the reach of the average middle class. The resulting shift from an economy of scarcity to one of affluence brought about a new class of industrial workers and opened opportunities for remunerative employment. It also ushered in the modern industrial revolution.