Automobiles are vehicles that transport people and cargo from one place to another. They have a body (or shell) that houses the mechanical parts of the vehicle, and a chassis that holds the wheels and other components of the car. The engine is the heart of every automobile, producing the power that drives the car’s wheels and provides electricity for lights, radios and other systems. The wheels are supported by the axles, which are attached to the chassis through suspension and shock absorbers. Today’s cars are built with a variety of safety features including airbags, seat belts and child seats.
The modern motor car was first invented in the late 1800s. It was perfected in Germany and France by engineers such as Karl Benz, Gottlieb Daimler and Nicolaus Otto.
By the 1920s the automobile had become a key force for change in American society. It dominated family life, spurred the development of leisure activities and spawned new services such as hotels and motels, fast food restaurants and amusement parks. It also fueled a growing economy, making the automobile industry one of the largest in the world and one of its most important consumers of steel and petroleum products.
However, the advantages of the automobile also created many problems. Millions of people die in traffic accidents, and the fumes from gasoline-burning cars pollute the environment. In addition, the demand for automobiles creates work opportunities for millions of workers who build and repair them.