Automobiles are complex technical systems with many subsystems that have specific design functions. The basic components include a body, chassis, engine, drivetrain, and control systems. The automobile has become a major force in the modern world and offers the mobility and flexibility of use required by an enormous variety of lifestyles and industries.
Few inventions in modern times have had as great an impact on the global environment and on daily life as the automobile. It is the most versatile and powerful means of transportation available, but it also poses substantial environmental and safety risks. Its sophisticated design and use affect every aspect of our society, from the layout of our cities to police, fire, and ambulance services to vacation travel, shopping, dining, and housing.
The automobile has been in constant development since the late 1800s, when it was first developed as a horseless carriage. Today, it is a highly evolved system that includes hundreds of individual parts that are arranged into several semi-independent systems with particular design functions. These systems include circulatory systems for cooling water and lubricating oil, as well as combustion systems to produce the energy that drives the wheels.
One of the most important parts of an automobile is the chassis, which supports and protects all other systems. Its structural components are often made from steel or aluminum, although high-strength plastics and other materials are becoming increasingly popular. The chassis is a framework that holds the engine, steering and suspension systems, and the body of the car. Its most important function, however, is to ensure the safety of the passengers by providing support strong enough to withstand the forces that could be generated in an accident and to absorb the shocks from the road surface.
The chassis and the automobile’s other systems require electricity to run. The electric starter motor provides the force necessary to start the engine, and an alternator keeps a battery charged to provide energy for the sensors and other functions that control the automobile’s operation. The brakes, which are also powered by electricity, apply friction to the wheels to slow the vehicle.
The suspension system of an automobile is a network of springs and shock absorbers that allow the chassis to move in response to changes in road conditions and provide cushioning for the passengers. The shock absorbers are designed to dampen or quiet the springs’ movement by using tubes and chambers filled with hydraulic fluid. The transmission system in an automobile adjusts speed and torque by a series of gears, clutches, and shaft couplings. Gears are used to change the ratio between engine power and driving shaft speed, because for a given engine power, the transmission must deliver the correct amount of acceleration and deceleration to achieve optimal performance.