Automobiles are a major part of our modern world. They are used for work and leisure activities, to transport goods and people, and to support emergency services.
The automobile is a complex machine that contains thousands of parts. Its design is a balance of many factors, and compromises are often necessary to satisfy the needs of individual users. But the major systems are the same in every automobile: engines, wheels and tires, braking system, chassis, and body.
Karl Benz, a German engineer, invented the first car in 1885. Later, Henry Ford revolutionized automotive manufacturing by using assembly lines, which allowed more families to afford cars.
In the United States, more than three trillion kilometers (five trillion miles) are driven each year in passenger vehicles. These vehicles have restructured societies and reorganized economic activities, especially by allowing fast long-distance movement of people and goods.
Cars have a significant impact on the environment, too. They cause air pollution and noise, and they encourage sprawl — a pattern of low-density urban development that degrades landscapes and generates traffic congestion that immobilizes the cars that make sprawl possible.
While many people may think that owning a car is not a necessity, it does have some benefits. For example, if you live far from your workplace or school, getting a car can save you time on errands such as picking up dry cleaning or going grocery shopping. It can also make it easier to see friends and family. And if you need to borrow money to buy a home or a business, it can help demonstrate that you are a responsible financial risk by showing you can keep up with a loan repayment schedule.