an automobile is a self-propelled wheeled vehicle, used for land transport. it usually contains seats for at least one passenger, and the driver. the car is the most popular kind of automobile.
early automobiles were often referred to as 'horseless carriages', and had an obvious environmental advantage, due to the fact that thousands of tons of manure no longer had to cleared from the streets. automobiles have also led to a significant enhancement in safety. their affordability and speed, enables them to outrun hurricanes and tornadoes. they have also enabled millions to get medical care more promptly.
in 1769, nicolas-joseph cugnot, built the first true automobile. it was steam-powered, and could run at a speed of 6 km/h.
the first internal combustion engine was designed by françois isaac de rivaz in 1807. he also designed a vehicle for his engine, which used a mixture of oxygen and hydrogen for fuel.
in 1860, jean joseph etienne lenoir built a two-stroke gas fuelled engine. two years later, he built an experimental vehicle for this engine. by 1865, these cars were often seen on the streets.
in 1877, george b. selden of rochester, new york, developed gasoline-powered automobiles. in 1886, automobiles were independently developed in germany by wilhelm maybach and gottlieb daimler in stuttgart, carl benz in mannheim; and in 1888/89, in vienna, by siegfried marcus, a german-austrian.
mass-production of affordable automobiles was introduced by oldsmobile in 1902, then expanded by henry ford in the 1910s. this paved the way for a future dependency on the automobile.
in the 1960s, bosch developed electronic systems, which enabled automobiles to reduce exhaust emissions while increasing efficiency and power.
in 1965, in california, united states, legislation was introduced to regulate exhaust emissions. other countries later introduced their own safety and environmental legislation. speed limits and other traffic regulations were designed to ensure smooth traffic flow, and protect all road users. meeting regulations became a great challenge. however, by 1985, the manufacturers had learned how to handle the newly regulated environment, and some began introducing environmental and safety features on their own.
each year, over a million persons are killed and approximately fifty million are injured in collisions. important determinants in accidents include the inattentiveness, use of drugs or alcohol, tiredness, the use of handheld mobile phones, road hazards such as animals, potholes, and snow, and recklessness.
initial research in safety focused on making brakes more reliable and lowering the flammability of fuel systems. more recently, research has concentrated on using crushable panels to absorb crash energy, and on limiting the movement of human bodies in the passenger section.
the birth of the automobile industry has been due to a combination of technical, industrial, and human effort. there are about 500 million cars worldwide, including 220 million in the united states (2005 estimate). today, especially in developed countries, it is hard to imagine life without the automobile.