An automobile, motor car or car is a wheeled motor vehicle used for transporting
passengers, which also carries its own engine or motor. Most definitions
of the term specify that automobiles are designed to run primarily on roads,
to have seating for one to eight people, to typically have four wheels,
and to be constructed principally for the transport of people rather than
There are approximately 600 million passenger cars worldwide (roughly one
car per eleven people). Around the world, there were about 806 million
cars and light trucks on the road in 2007; they burn over a billion cubic
meters (260 billion US gallons) of petrol/gasoline and diesel fuel yearly.
The numbers are increasing rapidly, especially in China and India.
Look up automobile in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
The word automobile comes, via the French automobile, from the Ancient
Greek word a?t?? (autós, "self") and the Latin mobilis
("movable"); meaning a vehicle that moves itself, rather than
being pulled or pushed by a separate animal or another vehicle. The alternative
name car is believed to originate from the Latin word carrus or carrum
("wheeled vehicle"), or the Middle English word carre ("cart")
(from Old North French), or from the Gaulish word karros (a Gallic Chariot).
Main article: History of the automobile
The first working steam-powered vehicle was probably designed by Ferdinand
Verbiest, a Flemish member of a Jesuit mission in China around 1672.
It was a 65 cm-long scale-model toy for the Chinese Emperor, that was
unable to carry a driver or a passenger. It is not known if
Verbiest's model was ever built.
In 1752, Leonty Shamshurenkov, a Russian peasant, constructed a human-pedalled
four-wheeled "auto-running" carriage, and subsequently proposed
to equip it with odometer and to use the same principle for making a self-propelling
Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot is often credited with building the first self-propelled
mechanical vehicle or automobile in about 1769, by adapting an existing
horse-drawn vehicle. However, this claim is disputed by some who doubt
Cugnot's three-wheeler ever ran or was stable. In 1801,
Richard Trevithick built and demonstrated his Puffing Devil road locomotive,
believed by many to be the first demonstration of a steam-powered road
vehicle. It was unable to maintain sufficient steam pressure for long periods,
and was of little practical use.
In the 1780s, a Russian inventor of merchant origin, Ivan Kulibin, developed
a human-pedalled, three-wheeled carriage with modern features such as a
flywheel, brake, Transmission, and bearings; however, it was not developed
In 1807 Nicéphore Niépce and his brother Claude probably
created the world's first internal combustion engine which they called
a Pyréolophore, but they chose to install it in a boat on the river
Saone in France. Coincidentally, in 1807 the Swiss inventor François
Isaac de Rivaz designed his own 'internal combustion engine' and used it
to develop the world's first vehicle, to be powered by such an engine.
The Niépces' Pyréolophore was fuelled by a mixture of Lycopodium
powder (dried Lycopodium moss), finely crushed coal dust and resin that
were mixed with oil, whereas de Rivaz used a mixture of hydrogen and oxygen.
Neither design was very successful, as was the case with others, such as
Samuel Brown, Samuel Morey, and Etienne Lenoir with his hippomobile, who
each produced vehicles (usually adapted carriages or carts) powered by
clumsy internal combustion engines.
In November 1881, French inventor Gustave Trouvé demonstrated a
working three-wheeled automobile powered by electricity at the International
Exposition of Electricity, Paris.
Although several other German engineers (including Gottlieb Daimler, Wilhelm
Maybach, and Siegfried Marcus) were working on the problem at about the
same time, Karl Benz generally is acknowledged as the inventor of the modern
An automobile powered by his own four-stroke cycle gasoline engine was
built in Mannheim, Germany by Karl Benz in 1885, and granted a patent in
January of the following year under the auspices of his major company,
Benz & Cie., which was founded in 1883. It was an integral design,
without the adaptation of other existing components, and included several
new technological elements to create a new concept. He began to sell his
production vehicles in 1888.
A photograph of the original Benz Patent-Motorwagen, first built in 1885
and awarded the patent for the concept
In 1879, Benz was granted a patent for his first engine, which had been
designed in 1878. Many of his other inventions made the use of the internal
combustion engine feasible for powering a vehicle.
His first Motorwagen was built in 1885, and he was awarded the patent for
its invention as of his application on January 29, 1886. Benz began promotion
of the vehicle on July 3, 1886, and about 25 Benz vehicles were sold between
1888 and 1893, when his first four-wheeler was introduced along with a
model intended for affordability. They also were powered with four-stroke
engines of his own design. Emile Roger of France, already producing Benz
engines under license, now added the Benz automobile to his line of products.
Because France was more open to the early automobiles, initially more were
built and sold in France through Roger than Benz sold in Germany.
In 1896, Benz designed and patented the first internal-combustion flat
engine, called boxermotor. During the last years of the nineteenth century,
Benz was the largest automobile company in the world with 572 units produced
in 1899 and, because of its size, Benz & Cie., became a joint-stock
Daimler and Maybach founded Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft (DMG) in Cannstatt
in 1890, and sold their first automobile in 1892 under the brand name,
Daimler. It was a horse-drawn stagecoach built by another manufacturer,
that they retrofitted with an engine of their design. By 1895 about 30
vehicles had been built by Daimler and Maybach, either at the Daimler works
or in the Hotel Hermann, where they set up shop after disputes with their
backers. Benz, Maybach and the Daimler team seem to have been unaware of
each others' early work. They never worked together; by the time of the
merger of the two companies, Daimler and Maybach were no longer part of
Daimler died in 1900 and later that year, Maybach designed an engine named
Daimler-Mercedes, that was placed in a specially ordered model built to
specifications set by Emil Jellinek. This was a production of a small number
of vehicles for Jellinek to race and market in his country. Two years later,
in 1902, a new model DMG automobile was produced and the model was named
Mercedes after the Maybach engine which generated 35 hp. Maybach quit DMG
shortly thereafter and opened a business of his own. Rights to the Daimler
brand name were sold to other manufacturers.
Karl Benz proposed co-operation between DMG and Benz & Cie. when economic
conditions began to deteriorate in Germany following the First World War,
but the directors of DMG refused to consider it initially. Negotiations
between the two companies resumed several years later when these conditions
worsened and, in 1924 they signed an Agreement of Mutual Interest, valid
until the year 2000. Both enterprises standardized design, production,
purchasing, and sales and they advertised or marketed their automobile
models jointly, although keeping their respective brands. On June 28, 1926,
Benz & Cie. and DMG finally merged as the Daimler-Benz company, baptizing
all of its automobiles Mercedes Benz, as a brand honoring the most important
model of the DMG automobiles, the Maybach design later referred to as the
1902 Mercedes-35 hp, along with the Benz name. Karl Benz remained a member
of the board of directors of Daimler-Benz until his death in 1929, and
at times, his two sons participated in the management of the company as
In 1890, Émile Levassor and Armand Peugeot of France began producing
vehicles with Daimler engines, and so laid the foundation of the automobile
industry in France.
The first design for an American automobile with a gasoline internal combustion
engine was drawn in 1877 by George Selden of Rochester, New York, who applied
for a patent for an automobile in 1879, but the patent application expired
because the vehicle was never built. After a delay of sixteen years and
a series of attachments to his application, on November 5, 1895, Selden
was granted a United States patent (U.S. Patent 549,160) for a two-stroke
automobile engine, which hindered, more than encouraged, development of
automobiles in the United States. His patent was challenged by Henry Ford
and others, and overturned in 1911.
In Britain, there had been several attempts to build steam cars with varying
degrees of success, with Thomas Rickett even attempting a production run
in 1860. Santler from Malvern is recognized by the Veteran Car Club
of Great Britain as having made the first petrol-powered car in the country
in 1894 followed by Frederick William Lanchester in 1895, but these
were both one-offs. The first production vehicles in Great Britain
came from the Daimler Motor Company, a company founded by Harry J. Lawson
in 1896, after purchasing the right to use the name of the engines. Lawson's
company made its first automobiles in 1897, and they bore the name Daimler.
In 1892, German engineer Rudolf Diesel was granted a patent for a "New
Rational Combustion Engine". In 1897, he built the first Diesel Engine.
Steam-, electric-, and gasoline-powered vehicles competed for decades,
with gasoline internal combustion engines achieving dominance in the 1910s.
Although various pistonless rotary engine designs have attempted to compete
with the conventional piston and crankshaft design, only Mazda's version
of the Wankel engine has had more than very limited success.
Ransom E. Olds
The large-scale, production-line manufacturing of affordable automobiles
was debuted by Ransom Olds at his Oldsmobile factory in 1902. This concept
was greatly expanded by Henry Ford, beginning in 1914.
As a result, Ford's cars came off the line in fifteen minute intervals,
much faster than previous methods, increasing productivity eightfold (requiring
12.5 man-hours before, 1 hour 33 minutes after), while using less manpower.
It was so successful, paint became a bottleneck. Only Japan black would
dry fast enough, forcing the company to drop the variety of colors available
before 1914, until fast-drying Duco lacquer was developed in 1926. This
is the source of Ford's apocryphal remark, "any color as long as it's
black". In 1914, an assembly line worker could buy a Model T with
four months' pay.
Portrait of Henry Ford (ca. 1919)
Ford's complex safety procedures—especially assigning each worker to a
specific location instead of allowing them to roam about—dramatically reduced
the rate of injury. The combination of high wages and high efficiency is
called "Fordism," and was copied by most major industries. The
efficiency gains from the assembly line also coincided with the economic
rise of the United States. The assembly line forced workers to work at
a certain pace with very repetitive motions which led to more output per
worker while other countries were using less productive methods.
In the automotive industry, its success was dominating, and quickly spread
worldwide seeing the founding of Ford France and Ford Britain in 1911,
Ford Denmark 1923, Ford Germany 1925; in 1921, Citroen was the first native
European manufacturer to adopt the production method. Soon, companies had
to have assembly lines, or risk going broke; by 1930, 250 companies which
did not, had disappeared.
Development of automotive technology was rapid, due in part to the hundreds
of small manufacturers competing to gain the world's attention. Key developments
included electric ignition and the electric self-starter (both by Charles
Kettering, for the Cadillac Motor Company in 1910–1911), independent suspension,
and four-wheel brakes.
Ford Model T, 1927, regarded as the first affordable American automobile
Since the 1920s, nearly all cars have been mass-produced to meet market
needs, so marketing plans often have heavily influenced automobile design.
It was Alfred P. Sloan who established the idea of different makes of cars
produced by one company, so buyers could "move up" as their fortunes
Reflecting the rapid pace of change, makes shared parts with one another
so larger production volume resulted in lower costs for each price range.
For example, in the 1930s, LaSalles, sold by Cadillac, used cheaper mechanical
parts made by Oldsmobile; in the 1950s, Chevrolet shared hood, doors, roof,
and windows with Pontiac; by the 1990s, corporate powertrains and shared
platforms (with interchangeable brakes, suspension, and other parts) were
common. Even so, only major makers could afford high costs, and even companies
with decades of production, such as Apperson, Cole, Dorris, Haynes, or
Premier, could not manage: of some two hundred American car makers in existence
in 1920, only 43 survived in 1930, and with the Great Depression, by 1940,
only 17 of those were left.
In Europe much the same would happen. Morris set up its production line
at Cowley in 1924, and soon outsold Ford, while beginning in 1923 to follow
Ford's practise of vertical integration, buying Hotchkiss (engines), Wrigley
(gearboxes), and Osberton (radiators), for instance, as well as competitors,
such as Wolseley: in 1925, Morris had 41% of total British car production.
Most British small-car assemblers, from Abbey to Xtra had gone under. Citroen
did the same in France, coming to cars in 1919; between them and other
cheap cars in reply such as Renault's 10CV and Peugeot's 5CV, they produced
550,000 cars in 1925, and Mors, Hurtu, and others could not compete.
Germany's first mass-manufactured car, the Opel 4PS Laubfrosch (Tree Frog),
came off the line at Russelsheim in 1924, soon making Opel the top car
builder in Germany, with 37.5% of the market.
See also: Automotive industry
Fuel and propulsion technologies
A radio taxi in New Delhi. A court order requires all commercial vehicles
including trucks, buses and taxis in Delhi to run on Compressed Natural
Main article: Automobile propulsion technologies
See also: Alternative fuel vehicle
Older automobiles were generally powered by a steam engine, which was fed
by burning gasoline. Most automobiles in use today however are propelled
by a internal combustion engine, fueled by deflagration of gasoline (also
known as petrol) or diesel. Both fuels are known to cause air pollution
and are also blamed for contributing to climate change and global warming.
Increasing costs of oil-based fuels, tightening environmental laws and
restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions are propelling work on alternative
power systems for automobiles. Efforts to improve or replace existing technologies
include the development of hybrid vehicles, electric and hydrogen vehicles
that do not release pollution into the air.
Main articles: Car safety and Automobile accident
Result of a serious automobile accident
While road traffic injuries represent the leading cause in worldwide injury-related
deaths, their popularity undermines this statistic.
Mary Ward became one of the first documented automobile fatalities in 1869
in Parsonstown, Ireland and Henry Bliss one of the United States' first
pedestrian automobile casualties in 1899 in New York. There are now
standard tests for safety in new automobiles, like the EuroNCAP and the
US NCAP tests, as well as insurance-backed IIHS tests.
Costs and benefits
Further information: Automotive industry
Main article: Economics of automobile usage
The costs of automobile usage, which may include the cost of: acquiring
the vehicle, repairs, maintenance, fuel, depreciation, injury, driving
time, parking fees, tire replacement, taxes, and insurance, are weighed
against the cost of the alternatives, and the value of the benefits – perceived
and real – of vehicle usage. The benefits may include on-demand transportation,
mobility, independence and convenience.
Main article: Effects of the automobile on societies
Similarly the costs to society of encompassing automobile use, which may
include those of: maintaining roads, land use, pollution, public health,
health care, and of disposing of the vehicle at the end of its life, can
be balanced against the value of the benefits to society that automobile
use generates. The societal benefits may include: economy benefits, such
as job and wealth creation, of automobile production and maintenance, transportation
provision, society wellbeing derived from leisure and travel opportunities,
and revenue generation from the tax opportunities. The ability for humans
to move flexibly from place to place has far reaching implications for
the nature of societies.
See also: automobile emissions
The examples and perspective in this section may not represent a worldwide
view of the subject. Please improve this article and discuss the issue
on the talk page. (June 2010)
Transportation is a major contributor to air pollution in most industrialised
nations. According to the American Surface Transportation Policy Project
nearly half of all Americans are breathing unhealthy air. Their study showed
air quality in dozens of metropolitan areas has worsened over the last
decade. In the United States the average passenger car emits 11,450
pounds (5,190 kg) of carbon dioxide annually, along with smaller amounts
of carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, and nitrogen.
Animals and plants are often negatively impacted by automobiles via habitat
destruction and pollution. Over the lifetime of the average automobile
the "loss of habitat potential" may be over 50,000 square meters
(540,000 sq ft) based on primary production correlations.
Fuel taxes may act as an incentive for the production of more efficient,
hence less polluting, car designs (e.g. hybrid vehicles) and the development
of alternative fuels. High fuel taxes may provide a strong incentive for
consumers to purchase lighter, smaller, more fuel-efficient cars, or to
not drive. On average, today's automobiles are about 75 percent recyclable,
and using recycled steel helps reduce energy use and pollution. In
the United States Congress, federally mandated fuel efficiency standards
have been debated regularly, passenger car standards have not risen above
the 27.5 miles per US gallon (8.55 L/100 km; 33.0 mpg-imp) standard set
in 1985. Light truck standards have changed more frequently, and were set
at 22.2 miles per US gallon (10.6 L/100 km; 26.7 mpg-imp) in 2007.
Alternative fuel vehicles are another option that is less polluting than
conventional petroleum powered vehicles.
Other negative effects
Residents of low-density, residential-only sprawling communities are also
more likely to die in car collisions[original research?] which kill 1.2
million people worldwide each year, and injure about forty times this number.
Sprawl is more broadly a factor in inactivity and obesity, which in turn
can lead to increased risk of a variety of diseases.
Millions of animals are also killed every year on roads by automobiles—so-called
Main article: Driverless car
A robotic Volkswagen Passat shown at Stanford University is a driverless
Fully autonomous vehicles, also known as robotic cars, or driverless cars,
already exist in prototype, and are expected to be commercially available
around 2020. According to urban designer and futurist Michael E. Arth,
driverless electric vehicles—in conjunction with the increased use of virtual
reality for work, travel, and pleasure—could reduce the world's 800 million
vehicles to a fraction of that number within a few decades. This would
be possible if almost all private cars requiring drivers, which are not
in use and parked 90% of the time, would be traded for public self-driving
taxis that would be in near constant use. This would also allow for getting
the appropriate vehicle for the particular need—a bus could come for a
group of people, a limousine could come for a special night out, and a
Segway could come for a short trip down the street for one person. Children
could be chauffeured in supervised safety, DUIs would no longer exist,
and 41,000 lives could be saved each year in the US alone.
Future car technologies
Main article: Future car technologies
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Please help improve this article by adding reliable references. Unsourced
material may be challenged and removed. (June 2010)
Automobile propulsion technology under development include gasoline/electric
and plug-in hybrids, battery electric vehicles, hydrogen cars, biofuels,
and various alternative fuels.
Research into future alternative forms of power include the development
of fuel cells, Homogeneous Charge Compression Ignition (HCCI), stirling
engines, and even using the stored energy of compressed air or liquid
New materials which may replace steel car bodies include duraluminum, fiberglass,
carbon fiber, and carbon nanotubes.
Telematics technology is allowing more and more people to share cars, on
a pay-as-you-go basis, through such schemes as City Car Club in the UK,
Mobility in mainland Europe, and Zipcar in the US.
Open source development
There have been several projects aiming to develop a car on the principles
of open design. The projects include OScar, Riversimple (through 40fires.org)
and c,mm,n. None of the projects have reached significant success in
terms of developing a car as a whole both from hardware and software perspective
and no mass production ready open-source based design have been introduced
as of late 2009. Some car hacking through on-board diagnostics (OBD) has
been done so far.
Alternatives to the automobile
Main article: Alternatives to the automobile
Established alternatives for some aspects of automobile use include public
transit (buses, trolleybuses, trains, subways, monorails, tramways),
cycling, walking, rollerblading, skateboarding, horseback riding and
using a velomobile. Car-share arrangements and carpooling are also increasingly
popular–the US market leader in car-sharing has experienced double-digit
growth in revenue and membership growth between 2006 and 2007, offering
a service that enables urban residents to "share" a vehicle
rather than own a car in already congested neighborhoods. Bike-share
systems have been tried in some European cities, including Copenhagen
and Amsterdam. Similar programs have been experimented with in a number
of US Cities. Additional individual modes of transport, such as personal
rapid transit could serve as an alternative to automobiles if they prove
to be socially accepted.
Main article: Automotive industry
The automotive industry designs, develops, manufactures, markets, and sells
the world's motor vehicles. In 2008, more than 70 million motor vehicles,
including cars and commercial vehicles were produced worldwide.
In 2007, a total of 71.9 million new automobiles were sold worldwide: 22.9
million in Europe, 21.4 million in Asia-Pacific, 19.4 million in USA and
Canada, 4.4 million in Latin America, 2.4 million in the Middle East and
1.4 million in Africa. The markets in North America and Japan were
stagnant, while those in South America and other parts of Asia grew strongly.
Of the major markets, China, Russia, Brazil and India saw the most rapid
About 250 million vehicles are in use in the United States. Around the
world, there were about 806 million cars and light trucks on the road in
2007; they burn over 260 billion gallons of gasoline and diesel fuel yearly.
The numbers are increasing rapidly, especially in China and India. In
the opinion of some, urban transport systems based around the car have
proved unsustainable, consuming excessive energy, affecting the health
of populations, and delivering a declining level of service despite increasing
investments. Many of these negative impacts fall disproportionately on
those social groups who are also least likely to own and drive cars.
The sustainable transport movement focuses on solutions to these problems.
In 2008, with rapidly rising oil prices, industries such as the automotive
industry, are experiencing a combination of pricing pressures from raw
material costs and changes in consumer buying habits. The industry is also
facing increasing external competition from the public transport sector,
as consumers re-evaluate their private vehicle usage. Roughly half
of the US's fifty-one light vehicle plants are projected to permanently
close in the coming years, with the loss of another 200,000 jobs in the
sector, on top of the 560,000 jobs lost this decade. Combined with
robust growth in China, in 2009, this resulted in China becoming the largest
automobile producer and market in the world.
Main article: Automotive market
The automotive market is formed by the demand and the industry. This article
is about the general, major trends in the automotive market, mainly from
the demand side.
The European automotive market has always boasted more smaller cars than
the United States. With the high fuel prices and the world petroleum crisis,
the United States may see its automotive market become more like the European
market with fewer large vehicles on the road and more small cars.
For luxurious cars, with the current volatility in oil prices, going for
smaller cars is not only smart, but also trendy. And because fashion is
of high importance with the upper classes, the little green cars with luxury
trimmings become quite plausible.