Automobiles and the Environment

Automobiles have revolutionized modern society. Entire economies have been restructured around the power of rapid, long-distance movement conferred by automobiles and the flexible distribution of goods made possible by trucks. But the automobile has also contributed to smog, congestion, pollution and the extinction of some species.

The scientific and technological building blocks of the automobile go back several hundred years, to Leonardo DaVinci in the 15th century, Sir Isaac Newton a century later, and Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot in the 1790s. By the late 1800s, a variety of prototypes had been developed. But it was not until Henry Ford introduced assembly line production in 1913 that the automobile became a major industry.

At the time of its emergence, the automobile was a powerful symbol of personal freedom. It encouraged family vacations, allowing rural dwellers to rediscover pristine landscapes and urban dwellers to explore a world they had never seen before. It sparked new industries, such as roadside service stations and motels. And it prompted people to move farther from their homes, transforming cities and degrading farmland, leading to sprawl that degrades landscapes and generates traffic congestion that immobilizes the automobiles that make the sprawl possible.

There are several different kinds of automobiles, which differ by their shape, size, propulsion system, Engine type, Engine position and drive type as well as whether they run on tracks, air, water, underwater or on the road. The main components of an automobile are the body, chassis, engine, power train and transmission. The engine is the “heart” of the automobile. It is comprised of a piston engine that uses internal combustion to turn the crankshaft, which drives the wheels via the transmission. The engine must be cooled, lubricated, and fed with fuel, like the human heart, lungs, and blood vessels. Thousands of individual parts make up the modern automobile. The automotive industry continues to evolve with new technical developments.

In the postwar era, engineering was subordinated to non-functional styling at the expense of economy and safety, with the result that by the 1960s American cars had the highest unit defects per vehicle, as well as the most pollution and the largest drain on dwindling world oil supplies. Today’s engineers are re-examining the basic principles of automobile design, seeking to combine advanced design with moderate price and low operating costs. The goal is to create an automobile that is both safe and attractive, that offers a good value for money to the consumer, and that can be produced economically and without excessively high levels of safety risk. This is an ongoing struggle that will determine the future of automobiles for generations to come. Click on a collocation to view more examples. 2019 Cambridge Dictionary unless otherwise indicated. Terms of Use | Copyright 1996-2019 Cambridge University Press. All rights reserved.