An automobile is a motor vehicle that transports people and/or cargo. Automobiles are driven by internal combustion engines or electric motors, and can be powered by gasoline, diesel fuel, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), battery-powered electric vehicles, or other energy sources. Automobiles have a wide variety of purposes, from hauling heavy loads over long distances to carrying passengers on commuter routes. Many automobiles also have features for safety, entertainment, and comfort. The design of an automobile reflects the requirements of its intended use. For example, an automobile designed to travel over rugged off-road surfaces requires sturdy and simple systems with high resistance to overloads and extreme operating conditions. An automobile designed for highway travel must offer improved passenger comfort, optimized high-speed handling, and excellent stability on the road.
During the late 1800s, inventors in Europe worked on steam-driven automobiles, but no one developed a vehicle that could be called a modern automobile until 1901, when Wilhelm Maybach designed the Mercedes model. That car’s streamlined design, light weight, and thirty-five horsepower engine made it the first truly modern automobile in its essentials.
The automobile became an integral part of the everyday life of the world’s population, and it would be impossible to imagine, or even describe, modern life without them. Since that time, the automotive industry has developed and expanded rapidly. Thousands of different parts go into the manufacture of an automobile. Some of these are specialized, such as the engine, cooling and lubrication system, transmission, and electrical system. Others are universal, such as the suspension system and chassis.