The Design of Automobiles
Automobiles are powered by engines and driven by people. They are designed to allow passengers to travel over long distances quickly, and the automobile has changed the way we live. It has given us freedom of movement that we never before had, and it has also brought new industries and services such as hotels, restaurants, amusement parks, gas stations, and convenience stores. Modern life would be inconceivable without the automobile, but we must remember that it came with its downsides as well: air pollution, highway traffic congestion, and the destruction of rural and wilderness areas.
The modern automobile is a complex system of interdependent parts, similar to the human body. It contains systems for heating, cooling, lubricating, and electrical power; it has an engine that powers the wheels and drives the car; and it has a suspension system that allows the chassis to absorb the shocks of the road surface and respond to the direction the driver is steering. The individual systems are carefully arranged and balanced so that the automobile will perform its required tasks as efficiently as possible.
Thousands of different parts make up the modern automobile. The automobile’s engine is the heart of the vehicle; it is cooled by water and lubricated by oil, much like the human body. The transmission system is the bridge between the engine and the driving wheels, using gears to transfer power. The tires are the only points of contact with the road, and they must be able to withstand the pressure of the weight of the automobile and respond to the conditions of the road surface. The suspension system consists of springs that suspend the chassis and shock absorbers that dampen or quiet the movement of the springs.
Research and development engineers work to improve the design of an automobile in order to increase its speed, performance, comfort, and safety. Many of these improvements have come from technological advances, such as computer technology and the application of assembly-line manufacturing techniques first developed for automobile production in the early twentieth century.
The design of a particular automobile depends on its purpose and use. A small car that must be maneuverable and economical to drive in a city may require the use of more compact engines and smaller, lighter components than an SUV or sports car. Safety and reliability are critical for cars that are used to transport people, and government regulations have placed significant requirements on modern automobiles for both safety features and pollution control.