Few inventions in modern times have had a more profound influence on the history of human civilization than automobiles. Today they play a major role in our lives; without them we cannot imagine the luxuries of our modern world. The branch of Engineering which deals with the manufacturing and technology of automotive vehicles is known as Automobile engineering.
An automobile is a four-wheeled motor vehicle that is self-propelled by a combustion engine or electric motor. Its design varies considerably depending on its intended use. Automobiles designed for off-road or rugged environments require durable, simple systems with high resistance to severe overloads and extreme operating conditions. Those designed for highway use must offer more passenger comfort options and improved engine performance, optimized high-speed handling and vehicle stability.
The automobile embodies the long-standing predilection, especially in the United States, for individual freedom of movement and action. It has created whole industries around the production and distribution of automobile parts, and it has transformed societies by reshaping urban infrastructure and facilitating sprawl (i.e., low-density development). But the automobile also symbolizes the pitfalls of excessive mobility, including environmental degradation and traffic congestion.
The first automobiles were steam-powered or electric, and a few were even able to traverse waterways. But it was not until Oliver Evans of Massachusetts patented his “Amphibious Digger” in 1804 that a practical, mass-produced automobile became feasible. Evans’s device was essentially a harbor dredge scow equipped with wheels, allowing it to travel on land as well as through water via a paddle wheel.