The Advantages and Disadvantages of Automobiles


Automobiles, which are powered by internal combustion engines and have four wheels, provide a means of personal transportation in most of the world. In the United States alone there are more than 1.4 billion automobiles in use, which cover more than 4.8 trillion kilometers (three trillion miles) each year. Modern life would be inconceivable, or at least highly inconvenient, without them.

The scientific and technical building blocks for the modern automobile date back several hundred years. In the late 1600s Dutch scientist Christiaan Huygens developed a type of engine that sparked from gunpowder, and in the 1800s Karl Benz used a similar type to power his first Motorwagen or “horseless carriage.” These vehicles were not much more than lightweight buggies with engines. The gasoline-powered automobile quickly won out, and by 1920 had overtaken the streets and highways of Europe and the United States. The manufacturing methods introduced by American carmaker Henry Ford revolutionized industrial production and made the cars more affordable.

Today automobiles can be powered by a variety of fuels including gasoline, diesel oil and kerosene. They also come in a wide range of sizes and styles to suit different tastes and needs. The largest car is the limousine, which can accommodate up to 20 people. Smaller models include the sedan, coupe, station wagon, hatchback and minivan. SUVs (sport utility vehicles) are rugged automobiles that combine the towing capacity of pickup trucks with passenger-carrying space.

An advantage of automobiles is that they give people the freedom to travel to work and other places without being confined to the schedules of buses, trains and trams. But they can also cause problems such as traffic congestion when too many people try to use them at the same time. They are also a source of air pollution when they burn fuel and emit pollutants, which can contribute to global warming. In addition, when accidents occur, they can harm or even kill people.

Despite these drawbacks, the automobile remains one of the most important of the modern technologies. The number of vehicles worldwide has doubled in the past 40 years, and the automobile industry is one of the world’s most important industries.

Consumer Reports has rated the Nissan Sentra sedan, Nissan Rogue Sport subcompact crossover and Toyota Prius hybrid as top choices in the under $25,000 category. Its picks in the $25,000 to $35,000 class include the Subaru Forester SUV and Kia Telluride three-row SUV, as well as the Toyota Prius Prime plug-in hybrid and Honda Accord gas-electric hybrid. The organization also likes the Ford Mustang Mach-E electric sports car and Toyota RAV4 hybrid in the $35,000 to $45,000 class. See Vehicle Ratings for more information. The CR editorial team reviews more than 70 different automobiles each year, testing for safety, crashworthiness, road-holding and handling, interior design, comfort and value. CR’s editors choose their favorite models based on the results of this research and its own driving experiences. To read the full review of each model, subscribe to the magazine.

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