A car (or automobile) is a wheeled motor vehicle used for
transportation. Most definitions of car say they run primarily on
roads, seat one to eight people, have four tires, and mainly transport
people rather than goods. Cars came into global use during the
20th century, and developed economies depend on them. The year 1886 is
regarded as the birth year of the modern car when German inventor Karl
Benz built his Benz Patent-Motorwagen. Cars became widely available in
the early 20th century. One of the first cars that were accessible to
the masses was the 1908 Model T, an American car manufactured by the
Ford Motor Company. Cars were rapidly adopted in the US, where they
replaced animal-drawn carriages and carts, but took much longer to be
accepted in Western Europe and other parts of the world.
Cars have controls for driving, parking, passenger comfort and safety,
and controlling a variety of lights. Over the decades, additional
features and controls have been added to vehicles, making them
progressively more complex. Examples include rear reversing cameras,
air conditioning, navigation systems, and in car entertainment. Most
cars in use in the 2010s are propelled by an internal combustion
engine, fueled by the combustion of fossil fuels. This causes air
pollution and also contributes to climate change and global
warming. Vehicles using alternative fuels such as ethanol
flexible-fuel vehicles and natural gas vehicles are also gaining
popularity in some countries. Electric cars, which were invented early
in the history of the car, began to become commercially available in
There are costs and benefits to car use. The costs include acquiring
the vehicle, interest payments (if the car is financed), repairs and
maintenance, fuel, depreciation, driving time, parking fees, taxes,
and insurance. The costs to society include maintaining roads, land
use, road congestion, air pollution, public health, health care, and
disposing of the vehicle at the end of its life.
accidents are the largest cause of injury-related deaths worldwide.
The benefits include on-demand transportation, mobility, independence,
and convenience. The societal benefits include economic benefits,
such as job and wealth creation from the automotive industry,
transportation provision, societal well-being from leisure and travel
opportunities, and revenue generation from the taxes. The ability for
people to move flexibly from place to place has far-reaching
implications for the nature of societies. It was estimated in 2014
that the number of cars was over 1.25 billion vehicles, up from the
500 million of 1986. The numbers are increasing rapidly,
especially in China, India and other newly industrialized
3 Mass production
4 Fuel and propulsion technologies
5 User interface
8 Seating and body style
10 Costs and benefits
11 Environmental impact
12 Emerging car technologies
12.1 Autonomous car
12.2 Open source development
15 Other meanings
16 See also
18 Further reading
19 External links
The word car is believed to originate from the Latin word carrus or
carrum ("wheeled vehicle"), or the
Middle English word carre (meaning
"two-wheel cart", from Old North French). In turn, these originated
from the Gaulish word karros (a Gallic chariot). It originally
referred to any wheeled horse-drawn vehicle, such as a cart, carriage,
or wagon. "Motor car" is attested from 1895, and is the usual
formal name for cars in British English. "Autocar" is a variant
that is also attested from 1895, but that is now considered archaic.
It literally means "self-propelled car". The term "horseless
carriage" was used by some to refer to the first cars at the time that
they were being built, and is attested from 1895.
The word "automobile" is a classical compound derived from the Ancient
Greek word autós (αὐτός), meaning "self", and the Latin word
mobilis, meaning "movable". It entered the
English language from
French, and was first adopted by the
Automobile Club of Great Britain
in 1897. Over time, the word "automobile" fell out of favour in
Britain, and was replaced by "motor car". "Automobile" remains chiefly
North American, particularly as a formal or commercial term. An
abbreviated form, "auto", was formerly a common way to refer to cars
in English, but is now considered old-fashioned. The word is still
very common as an adjective in American English, usually in compound
formations like "auto industry" and "auto mechanic". In Dutch
and German, two languages historically related to English, the
abbreviated form "auto" (Dutch) / "Auto" (German), as well as the
formal full version "automobiel" (Dutch) / "Automobil" (German) are
still used — in either the short form is the most regular word for
Main article: History of the automobile
The first working steam-powered vehicle was designed — and quite
possibly built — by Ferdinand Verbiest, a Flemish member of a Jesuit
mission in China around 1672. It was a 65-cm-long scale-model toy for
the Chinese Emperor that was unable to carry a driver or a
passenger. It is not known with certainty if Verbiest's
model was successfully built or ran.
Cugnot's 1771 fardier à vapeur, as preserved at the Musée des Arts
et Métiers, Paris
Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot is widely credited with building the first
full-scale, self-propelled mechanical vehicle or car in about 1769; he
created a steam-powered tricycle. He also constructed two steam
tractors for the French Army, one of which is preserved in the French
National Conservatory of Arts and Crafts. His inventions were,
however, handicapped by problems with water supply and maintaining
steam pressure. In 1801,
Richard Trevithick built and demonstrated
his Puffing Devil road locomotive, believed by many to be the first
demonstration of a steam-powered road vehicle. It was unable to
maintain sufficient steam pressure for long periods, and was of little
The development of external combustion engines is detailed as part of
the history of the car, but often treated separately from the
development of true cars. A variety of steam-powered road vehicles
were used during the first part of the 19th century, including steam
cars, steam buses, phaetons, and steam rollers. Sentiment against them
led to the
Locomotive Acts of 1865.
Nicéphore Niépce and his brother Claude created what was
probably the world's first internal combustion engine (which they
called a Pyréolophore), but they chose to install it in a boat on the
Saone in France. Coincidentally, in 1807 the Swiss inventor
François Isaac de Rivaz
François Isaac de Rivaz designed his own 'de Rivaz internal
combustion engine' and used it to develop the world's first vehicle to
be powered by such an engine. The Niépces'
Pyréolophore was fuelled
by a mixture of
Lycopodium powder (dried spores of the Lycopodium
plant), finely crushed coal dust and resin that were mixed with oil,
whereas de Rivaz used a mixture of hydrogen and oxygen. Neither
design was very successful, as was the case with others, such as
Samuel Brown, Samuel Morey, and
Etienne Lenoir with his hippomobile,
who each produced vehicles (usually adapted carriages or carts)
powered by internal combustion engines.
Gustave Trouvé's tricycle, the first ever electric automobile to be
shown in public
Karl Benz, the inventor of the modern car
In November 1881, French inventor
Gustave Trouvé demonstrated the
first working (three-wheeled) car powered by electricity at the
International Exposition of Electricity, Paris. Although several
other German engineers (including Gottlieb Daimler, Wilhelm Maybach,
and Siegfried Marcus) were working on the problem at about the same
Karl Benz generally is acknowledged as the inventor of the
The original Benz Patent-Motorwagen, first built in 1885 and awarded
the patent for the concept
In 1879, Benz was granted a patent for his first engine, which had
been designed in 1878. Many of his other inventions made the use of
the internal combustion engine feasible for powering a vehicle. His
first Motorwagen was built in 1885 in Mannheim, Germany. He was
awarded the patent for its invention as of his application on 29
January 1886 (under the auspices of his major company, Benz &
Cie., which was founded in 1883). Benz began promotion of the vehicle
on 3 July 1886, and about 25 Benz vehicles were sold between 1888 and
1893, when his first four-wheeler was introduced along with a model
intended for affordability. They also were powered with four-stroke
engines of his own design. Emile Roger of France, already producing
Benz engines under license, now added the Benz car to his line of
France was more open to the early cars, initially
more were built and sold in
France through Roger than Benz sold in
Germany. In August 1888 Bertha Benz, the wife of Karl Benz, undertook
the first road trip by car, to prove the road-worthiness of her
Bertha Benz, the first long distance driver
In 1896, Benz designed and patented the first internal-combustion flat
engine, called boxermotor. During the last years of the nineteenth
century, Benz was the largest car company in the world with 572 units
produced in 1899 and, because of its size, Benz & Cie., became a
joint-stock company. The first motor car in central Europe and one of
the first factory-made cars in the world, was produced by Czech
company Nesselsdorfer Wagenbau (later renamed to Tatra) in 1897, the
Daimler and Maybach founded
Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft
Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft (DMG) in
Cannstatt in 1890, and sold their first car in 1892 under the brand
name Daimler. It was a horse-drawn stagecoach built by another
manufacturer, which they retrofitted with an engine of their design.
By 1895 about 30 vehicles had been built by Daimler and Maybach,
either at the Daimler works or in the Hotel Hermann, where they set up
shop after disputes with their backers. Benz, Maybach and the Daimler
team seem to have been unaware of each other's early work. They never
worked together; by the time of the merger of the two companies,
Daimler and Maybach were no longer part of DMG. Daimler died in 1900
and later that year, Maybach designed an engine named Daimler-Mercedes
that was placed in a specially ordered model built to specifications
set by Emil Jellinek. This was a production of a small number of
vehicles for Jellinek to race and market in his country. Two years
later, in 1902, a new model DMG car was produced and the model was
named Mercedes after the Maybach engine, which generated 35 hp.
Maybach quit DMG shortly thereafter and opened a business of his own.
Rights to the Daimler brand name were sold to other manufacturers.
Karl Benz proposed co-operation between DMG and Benz & Cie. when
economic conditions began to deteriorate in Germany following the
First World War, but the directors of DMG refused to consider it
initially. Negotiations between the two companies resumed several
years later when these conditions worsened and, in 1924 they signed an
Agreement of Mutual Interest, valid until the year 2000. Both
enterprises standardized design, production, purchasing, and sales and
they advertised or marketed their car models jointly, although keeping
their respective brands. On 28 June 1926, Benz & Cie. and DMG
finally merged as the Daimler-Benz company, baptizing all of its cars
Mercedes Benz, as a brand honoring the most important model of the DMG
cars, the Maybach design later referred to as the 1902
Mercedes-35 hp, along with the Benz name.
Karl Benz remained a
member of the board of directors of Daimler-Benz until his death in
1929, and at times his two sons also participated in the management of
Émile Levassor and
Armand Peugeot of
France began producing
vehicles with Daimler engines, and so laid the foundation of the
automotive industry in France. In 1891,
Auguste Doriot and his Peugeot
colleague Louis Rigoulot completed the longest trip by a
gasoline-powered vehicle when their self-designed and built Daimler
Peugeot Type 3
Peugeot Type 3 completed 2,100 km (1,300 miles) from
Valentigney to Paris and Brest and back again. They were attached to
Paris–Brest–Paris bicycle race, but finished 6 days
after the winning cyclist, Charles Terront.
The first design for an American car with a gasoline internal
combustion engine was made in 1877 by George Selden of Rochester, New
York. Selden applied for a patent for a car in 1879, but the patent
application expired because the vehicle was never built. After a delay
of sixteen years and a series of attachments to his application, on 5
November 1895, Selden was granted a United States patent (U.S. Patent
549,160) for a two-stroke car engine, which hindered, more than
encouraged, development of cars in the United States. His patent was
Henry Ford and others, and overturned in 1911.
In 1893, the first running, gasoline-powered American car was built
and road-tested by the
Duryea brothers of Springfield, Massachusetts.
The first public run of the
Duryea Motor Wagon
Duryea Motor Wagon took place on 21
September 1893, on Taylor Street in Metro Center Springfield.
Automobile Company, subsidiary of a long-established
wagon and coach manufacturer, started to build cars in 1897:p.66
and commenced sales of electric vehicles in 1902 and gasoline vehicles
In Britain, there had been several attempts to build steam cars with
varying degrees of success, with Thomas Rickett even attempting a
production run in 1860. Santler from Malvern is recognized by the
Car Club of Great Britain as having made the first
gasoline-powered car in the country in 1894, followed by Frederick
William Lanchester in 1895, but these were both one-offs. The
first production vehicles in Great Britain came from the Daimler
Company, a company founded by
Harry J. Lawson
Harry J. Lawson in 1896, after
purchasing the right to use the name of the engines. Lawson's company
made its first car in 1897, and they bore the name Daimler.
In 1892, German engineer
Rudolf Diesel was granted a patent for a "New
Combustion Engine". In 1897, he built the first diesel
engine. Steam-, electric-, and gasoline-powered vehicles competed
for decades, with gasoline internal combustion engines achieving
dominance in the 1910s. Although various pistonless rotary engine
designs have attempted to compete with the conventional piston and
crankshaft design, only Mazda's version of the
Wankel engine has had
more than very limited success.
All in all, it is estimated that over 100,000 patents created the
modern automobile and motorcycle.
See also: Automotive industry
Ransom E. Olds
Ransom E. Olds founded
Olds Motor Vehicle Company
Olds Motor Vehicle Company (Oldsmobile) in 1897
Henry Ford founded
Ford Motor Company
Ford Motor Company in 1903
Ford Model T
Kiichiro Toyoda, president of the
Toyota Motor Corporation
Toyota Motor Corporation 1941–1950
Mass production at a
Toyota plant in the 1950s
Large-scale, production-line manufacturing of affordable cars was
Ransom Olds in 1901 at his
Oldsmobile factory in Lansing,
Michigan and based upon stationary assembly line techniques pioneered
Marc Isambard Brunel
Marc Isambard Brunel at the Portsmouth Block Mills, England, in
1802. The assembly line style of mass production and interchangeable
parts had been pioneered in the U.S. by Thomas Blanchard in 1821, at
Springfield Armory in Springfield, Massachusetts. This concept
was greatly expanded by Henry Ford, beginning in 1913 with the world's
first moving assembly line for cars at the Highland Park
As a result, Ford's cars came off the line in fifteen-minute
intervals, much faster than previous methods, increasing productivity
eightfold, while using less manpower (from 12.5-man-hours to 1 hour 33
minutes). It was so successful, paint became a bottleneck. Only
Japan Black would dry fast enough, forcing the company to drop the
variety of colors available before 1913, until fast-drying Duco
lacquer was developed in 1926. This is the source of Ford's apocryphal
remark, "any color as long as it's black". In 1914, an assembly
line worker could buy a Model T with four months' pay.
Ford's complex safety procedures—especially assigning each worker to
a specific location instead of allowing them to roam
about—dramatically reduced the rate of injury. The combination of
high wages and high efficiency is called "Fordism," and was copied by
most major industries. The efficiency gains from the assembly line
also coincided with the economic rise of the United States. The
assembly line forced workers to work at a certain pace with very
repetitive motions which led to more output per worker while other
countries were using less productive methods.
In the automotive industry, its success was dominating, and quickly
spread worldwide seeing the founding of
Ford Denmark 1923,
Ford Germany 1925; in 1921,
the first native European manufacturer to adopt the production method.
Soon, companies had to have assembly lines, or risk going broke; by
1930, 250 companies which did not, had disappeared.
Development of automotive technology was rapid, due in part to the
hundreds of small manufacturers competing to gain the world's
attention. Key developments included electric ignition and the
electric self-starter (both by Charles Kettering, for the Cadillac
Motor Company in 1910–1911), independent suspension, and four-wheel
Since the 1920s, nearly all cars have been mass-produced to meet
market needs, so marketing plans often have heavily influenced car
design. It was
Alfred P. Sloan
Alfred P. Sloan who established the idea of different
makes of cars produced by one company, called the General Motors
Companion Make Program, so that buyers could "move up" as their
Reflecting the rapid pace of change, makes shared parts with one
another so larger production volume resulted in lower costs for each
price range. For example, in the 1930s, LaSalles, sold by Cadillac,
used cheaper mechanical parts made by Oldsmobile; in the 1950s,
Chevrolet shared hood, doors, roof, and windows with Pontiac; by the
1990s, corporate powertrains and shared platforms (with
interchangeable brakes, suspension, and other parts) were common. Even
so, only major makers could afford high costs, and even companies with
decades of production, such as Apperson, Cole, Dorris, Haynes, or
Premier, could not manage: of some two hundred American car makers in
existence in 1920, only 43 survived in 1930, and with the Great
Depression, by 1940, only 17 of those were left.
In Europe, much the same would happen. Morris set up its production
line at Cowley in 1924, and soon outsold Ford, while beginning in 1923
to follow Ford's practice of vertical integration, buying Hotchkiss
(engines), Wrigley (gearboxes), and Osberton (radiators), for
instance, as well as competitors, such as Wolseley: in 1925, Morris
had 41% of total British car production. Most British small-car
assemblers, from Abbey to Xtra, had gone under.
Citroen did the same
in France, coming to cars in 1919; between them and other cheap cars
in reply such as Renault's 10CV and Peugeot's 5CV, they produced
550,000 cars in 1925, and Mors, Hurtu, and others could not
compete. Germany's first mass-manufactured car, the
Laubfrosch (Tree Frog), came off the line at
Russelsheim in 1924, soon
Opel the top car builder in Germany, with 37.5% of the
In Japan, car production was very limited before World War II. Only a
handful of companines were producing vehicles in limited numbers, and
these were small, three-wheeled for commercial uses, like Daihatsu, or
were the result of partnering with European companies, like Isuzu
building the Wolseley A-9 in 1922.
Mitsubishi was also partnered with
Fiat and built the
Mitsubishi Model A based on a Fiat vehicle. Toyota,
Nissan, Suzuki, Mazda, and
Honda began as companies producing
non-automotive products before the war, switching to car production
during the 1950s. Kiichiro Toyoda's decision to take Toyoda Loom Works
into automobile manufacturing would create what would eventually
Toyota Motor Corporation, the largest automobile manufacturer
in the world. Subaru, meanwhile, was formed from a conglomerate of six
companies who banded together as Fuji Heavy Industries, as a result of
having been broken up under keiretsu legislation.
Fuel and propulsion technologies
Nissan Leaf is an all-electric car launched in December 2010
Alternative fuel vehicle
Most cars in use in the 2010s are propelled by an internal combustion
engine, fueled by the deflagration (rather than detonation) combustion
of hydrocarbon fossil fuels, mostly gasoline (petrol) and diesel, as
well as some
Autogas and CNG. Hydrocarbon fuels cause air pollution
and contribute to climate change and global warming. Rapidly
increasing oil prices, concerns about oil dependence, tightening
environmental laws and restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions are
propelling work on alternative power systems for cars. Efforts to
improve or replace existing technologies include the development of
hybrid vehicles, plug-in electric vehicles and hydrogen vehicles.
Vehicles using alternative fuels such as ethanol flexible-fuel
vehicles and natural gas vehicles are also gaining popularity in some
countries. Cars for racing or speed records have sometimes employed
jet or rocket engines, but these are impractical for common use.
Oil consumption in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries has been
abundantly pushed by car growth; the 1985–2003 oil glut even fuelled
the sales of low-economy vehicles in
OECD countries. The BRIC
countries are adding to this consumption; in December 2009 China was
briefly the largest car market.
Ford Model T
Ford Model T the left-side hand lever sets the rear wheel
parking brakes and puts the transmission in neutral. The lever to the
right controls the throttle. The lever on the left of the steering
column is for ignition timing. The left foot pedal changes the two
forward gears while the centre pedal controls reverse. The right pedal
is the brake.
Cars are equipped with controls used for driving, passenger comfort
and safety, normally operated by a combination of the use of feet and
hands, and occasionally by voice on 2000s-era cars. These controls
include a steering wheel, pedals for operating the brakes and
controlling the car's speed (and, in a manual transmission car, a
clutch pedal), a shift lever or stick for changing gears, and a number
of buttons and dials for turning on lights, ventilation and other
functions. Modern cars' controls are now standardised, such as the
location for the accelerator and brake, but this was not always the
case. Controls are evolving in response to new technologies, for
example the electric car and the integration of mobile communications.
Since the car was first invented, its controls have become fewer and
simpler through automation. For example, all cars once had a manual
controls for the choke valve, clutch, ignition timing, and a crank
instead of an electric starter. However new controls have also been
added to vehicles, making them more complex. Examples include air
conditioning, navigation systems, and in car entertainment. Another
trend is the replacement of physical knob and switches for secondary
controls with touchscreen controls such as BMW's iDrive and Ford's
Ford Touch. Another change is that while early cars' pedals were
physically linked to the brake mechanism and throttle, in the 2010s,
cars have increasingly replaced these physical linkages with
Main article: Automotive lighting
LED daytime running lights on an Audi A4
Cars are typically fitted with multiple types of lights. These include
headlights, which are used to illuminate the way ahead and make the
car visible to other users, so that the vehicle can be used at night;
in some jurisdictions, daytime running lights; red brake lights to
indicate when the brakes are applied; amber turn signal lights to
indicate the turn intentions of the driver; white-coloured reverse
lights to illuminate the area behind the car (and indicate that the
driver will be or is reversing); and on some vehicles, additional
lights (e.g., side marker lights) to increase the visibility of the
car. Interior lights on the ceiling of the car are usually fitted for
the driver and passengers. Some vehicles also have a trunk light and,
more rarely, an engine compartment light.
Smart Fortwo car from 1998-2002, weighing 730 kg
Chevrolet Suburban extended-length SUV weighs 3,300 kg
(7,200 lb) (gross weight)
In the United States, "from 1975 to 1980, average [car] weight dropped
from 1,842 to 1,464 kg (4,060 to 3,228 lb), likely in
response to rising gasoline prices" and new fuel efficiency
standards. The average new car weighed 1,461 kg
(3,221 lb) in 1987 but 1,818 kg (4,009 lb) in 2010, due
to modern steel safety cages, anti-lock brakes, airbags, and
"more-powerful—if more-efficient—engines." Heavier cars are
safer for the driver, from an accident perspective, but more dangerous
for other vehicles and road users. The weight of a car influences
fuel consumption and performance, with more weight resulting in
increased fuel consumption and decreased performance. The SmartFortwo,
a small city car, weighs 750–795 kg (1,655–1,755 lb).
Heavier cars include full-size cars, SUVs and extended-length SUVs
like the Suburban.
According to research conducted by Julian Allwood of the University of
Cambridge, global energy use could be heavily reduced by using lighter
cars, and an average weight of 500 kg (1,100 lb) has been
said to be well achievable. In some competitions such as the Shell
Eco Marathon, average car weights of 45 kg (99 lb) have also
been achieved. These cars are only single-seaters (still
falling within the definition of a car, although 4-seater cars are
more common), but they nevertheless demonstrate the amount by which
car weights could still be reduced, and the subsequent lower fuel use
(i.e. up to a fuel use of 2560 km/l).
Seating and body style
Car body style
Most cars are designed to carry multiple occupants, often with four or
five seats. Cars with five seats typically seat two passengers in the
front and three in the rear. Full-size cars and large sport utility
vehicles can often carry six, seven, or more occupants depending on
the arrangement of the seats. On the other hand, sports cars are most
often designed with only two seats. The differing needs for passenger
capacity and their luggage or cargo space has resulted in the
availability of a large variety of body styles to meet individual
consumer requirements that include, among others, the sedan/saloon,
hatchback, station wagon/estate, and minivan.
Car safety, Traffic accident, Low speed vehicle, and
Epidemiology of motor vehicle collisions
Result of a serious car accident
Road traffic accidents are the largest cause of injury-related deaths
worldwide. Mary Ward became one of the first documented car
fatalities in 1869 in Parsonstown, Ireland, and Henry Bliss one of
the United States' first pedestrian car casualties in 1899 in New York
City. There are now standard tests for safety in new cars, such as
EuroNCAP and the US NCAP tests, and insurance-industry-backed
tests by the
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).
Worldwide, road traffic is becoming ever safer, in part due to efforts
by the government to implement safety features in cars (e.g., seat
belts, air bags, etc.), reduce unsafe driving practices (e.g.,
speeding, drinking and driving and texting and driving) and make road
design more safe by adding features such as speed bumps, which reduce
vehicle speed, and roundabouts, which reduce the likelihood of a
head-on-collision (as compared with an intersection).
Costs and benefits
Main articles: Economics of car usage,
Car costs, and Effects of the
car on societies
Road congestion is an issue in many major cities. (pictured is
Chang'an Avenue in Beijing)
The costs of car usage, which may include the cost of: acquiring the
vehicle, repairs and auto maintenance, fuel, depreciation, driving
time, parking fees, taxes, and insurance, are weighed against the
cost of the alternatives, and the value of the benefits –
perceived and real – of vehicle usage. The benefits may include
on-demand transportation, mobility, independence and convenience.
During the 1920s, cars had another benefit: "[c]ouples finally had a
way to head off on unchaperoned dates, plus they had a private space
to snuggle up close at the end of the night."
Similarly the costs to society of encompassing car use, which may
include those of: maintaining roads, land use, air pollution, road
congestion, public health, health care, and of disposing of the
vehicle at the end of its life, can be balanced against the value of
the benefits to society that car use generates. The societal benefits
may include: economy benefits, such as job and wealth creation, of car
production and maintenance, transportation provision, society
wellbeing derived from leisure and travel opportunities, and revenue
generation from the tax opportunities. The ability for humans to move
flexibly from place to place has far-reaching implications for the
nature of societies.
See also: Exhaust gas,
Waste tires, Environmental impact of transport,
Motor vehicle emissions and pregnancy, Noise pollution, and
Environmental aspects of the electric car
Vehicles in use per country from 2001 to 2007. It shows the
significant growth in BRIC.
World map of passenger cars per 1000 people
While there are different types of fuel that may power cars, most rely
on gasoline or diesel. The United States Environmental Protection
Agency states that the average vehicle emits 8,887 grams of the
greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) per gallon of gasoline. The
average vehicle running on diesel fuel will emit 10,180 grams of
carbon dioxide. Many governments are using fiscal policies (such
as road tax or the US gas guzzler tax) to influence vehicle purchase
decisions, with a low CO2 figure often resulting in reduced
taxation. Fuel taxes may act as an incentive for the production of
more efficient, hence less polluting, car designs (e.g. hybrid
vehicles) and the development of alternative fuels. High fuel taxes
may provide a strong incentive for consumers to purchase lighter,
smaller, more fuel-efficient cars, or to not drive. On average,
today's cars are about 75 percent recyclable, and using recycled steel
helps reduce energy use and pollution. In the United States
Congress, federally mandated fuel efficiency standards have been
debated regularly, passenger car standards have not risen above the
27.5 miles per US gallon (8.6 L/100 km; 33.0 mpg‑imp)
standard set in 1985.
Light truck standards have changed more
frequently, and were set at 22.2 miles per US gallon
(10.6 L/100 km; 26.7 mpg‑imp) in 2007.
The manufacture of vehicles is resource intensive, and many
manufacturers now report on the environmental performance of their
factories, including energy usage, waste and water consumption.
The growth in popularity of the car allowed cities to sprawl,
therefore encouraging more travel by car resulting in inactivity and
obesity, which in turn can lead to increased risk of a variety of
Transportation (of all types including trucks, buses and cars) is a
major contributor to air pollution in most industrialised nations.
According to the American Surface
Transportation Policy Project nearly
half of all Americans are breathing unhealthy air. Their study showed
air quality in dozens of metropolitan areas has worsened over the last
Animals and plants are often negatively impacted by cars via habitat
destruction and pollution. Over the lifetime of the average car the
"loss of habitat potential" may be over 50,000 m2
(540,000 sq ft) based on primary production
correlations. Animals are also killed every year on roads by cars,
referred to as roadkill. More recent road developments are including
significant environmental mitigations in their designs such as green
bridges to allow wildlife crossings, and creating wildlife corridors.
Growth in the popularity of vehicles and commuting has led to traffic
congestion. Brussels was considered Europe's most congested city in
2011 according to TomTom.
Emerging car technologies
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Car propulsion technologies that are under development include
gasoline/electric and plug-in hybrids, battery electric vehicles,
hydrogen cars, biofuels, and various alternative fuels. Research into
future alternative forms of power include the development of fuel
Homogeneous charge compression ignition (HCCI), stirling
engines, and even using the stored energy of compressed air or
New materials which may replace steel car bodies include duralumin,
fiberglass, carbon fiber, biocomposites, and carbon nanotubes.
Telematics technology is allowing more and more people to share cars,
on a pay-as-you-go basis, through car share and carpool schemes.
Communication is also evolving due to connected car systems.
Main article: Autonomous car
Volkswagen Passat shown at
Stanford University is a
Fully autonomous vehicles, also known as driverless cars, already
exist in prototype (such as the Google driverless car), and are
expected to be commercially available around 2020. According to urban
designer and futurist Michael E. Arth, driverless electric
vehicles—in conjunction with the increased use of virtual reality
for work, travel, and pleasure—could reduce the world's 800 million
vehicles to a fraction of that number within a few decades. This
would be possible if almost all private cars requiring drivers, which
are not in use and parked 90% of the time, would be traded for public
self-driving taxis that would be in near constant use. This would also
allow for getting the appropriate vehicle for the particular need—a
bus could come for a group of people, a limousine could come for a
special night out, and a Segway could come for a short trip down the
street for one person. Children could be chauffeured in supervised
safety, DUIs would no longer exist, and 41,000 lives could be saved
each year in the US alone.
Open source development
Main article: Open source car
There have been several projects aiming to develop a car on the
principles of open design, an approach to designing in which the plans
for the machinery and systems are publicly shared, often without
monetary compensation. The projects include OScar, Riversimple
(through 40fires.org) and c,mm,n. None of the projects have
reached significant success in terms of developing a car as a whole
both from hardware and software perspective and no mass production
ready open-source based design have been introduced as of late 2009.
Some car hacking through on-board diagnostics (OBD) has been done so
Car-share arrangements and carpooling are also increasingly popular,
in the US and Europe. For example, in the US, some car-sharing
services have experienced double-digit growth in revenue and
membership growth between 2006 and 2007. Services like car sharing
offering a residents to "share" a vehicle rather than own a car in
already congested neighborhoods.
Main article: Automotive industry
A car being assembled in a factory
The automotive industry designs, develops, manufactures, markets, and
sells the world's motor vehicles. In 2008, more than 70 million motor
vehicles, including cars and commercial vehicles were produced
In 2007, a total of 71.9 million new cars were sold worldwide: 22.9
million in Europe, 21.4 million in the Asia-Pacific Region, 19.4
million in the USA and Canada, 4.4 million in Latin America, 2.4
million in the Middle East and 1.4 million in Africa. The markets
in North America and Japan were stagnant, while those in South America
and other parts of Asia grew strongly. Of the major markets, China,
Russia, Brazil and India saw the most rapid growth.
About 250 million vehicles are in use in the United States. Around the
world, there were about 806 million cars and light trucks on the road
in 2007; they burn over 260 billion US gallons
(980,000,000 m3) of gasoline and diesel fuel yearly. The numbers
are increasing rapidly, especially in China and India. In the
opinion of some, urban transport systems based around the car have
proved unsustainable, consuming excessive energy, affecting the health
of populations, and delivering a declining level of service despite
increasing investments. Many of these negative impacts fall
disproportionately on those social groups who are also least likely to
own and drive cars. The sustainable transport movement
focuses on solutions to these problems.
In 2008, with rapidly rising oil prices, industries such as the
automotive industry, are experiencing a combination of pricing
pressures from raw material costs and changes in consumer buying
habits. The industry is also facing increasing external competition
from the public transport sector, as consumers re-evaluate their
private vehicle usage. Roughly half of the US's fifty-one light
vehicle plants are projected to permanently close in the coming years,
with the loss of another 200,000 jobs in the sector, on top of the
560,000 jobs lost this decade. Combined with robust growth in
China, in 2009, this resulted in China becoming the largest car
producer and market in the world. China 2009 sales had increased to
13.6 million, a significant increase from one million of domestic car
sales in 2000. Since then however, even in China and other BRIC
countries, the automotive production is again falling.
Main article: Alternatives to car use
Vélib' in Paris is the largest bikesharing system outside of
Established alternatives for some aspects of car use include public
transit such as buses, trolleybuses, trains, subways, tramways light
rail, cycling, and walking. Bike-share systems have been tried in some
European cities, including
Copenhagen and Amsterdam. Similar programs
have been experimented with in a number of US Cities. Additional
individual modes of transport, such as personal rapid transit could
serve as an alternative to cars if they prove to be socially
The term motorcar has formerly also been used in the context of
electrified rail systems to denote a car which functions as a small
locomotive but also provides space for passengers and baggage. These
locomotive cars were often used on suburban routes by both interurban
and intercity railroad systems.
Main article: Outline of automobiles
List of countries by automobile production
List of countries by vehicles per capita
Lists of automobiles
Motor vehicle theft
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Wikimedia Commons has media related to Automobile.
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California AB 1493
Look up car in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile
Forum for the
Automobile and Society
Personal luxury car
Leisure activity vehicle
Cabriolet / Convertible
Coupé de Ville
Drophead coupe (Convertible)
Saloon / Sedan
Sedanca de Ville (
Coupé de Ville)
Spider / Spyder (Roadster)
Town car (
Coupé de Ville)
Gasoline / petrol (direct injection)
Homogeneous charge compression ignition
Layout (engine / drive)
Front / front
Front mid / front
Rear / front
Front / rear
Rear mid / rear
Rear / rear
Front / four-wheel
Mid / four-wheel
Rear / four-wheel
Part of a series of articles on cars
Stressed member engine
Approach and departure angles
Daytime running lamp
high-intensity discharge lamp
Rear position lamps
Vehicle registration plate
Windshield/windscreen washer fluid
power side-view mirror
Motor vehicle theft
Vehicle identification number
Part of the
Cylinder head (crossflow, reverse-flow)
Starter ring gear
Pneumatic valve springs
Variable valve timing
Cold air intake
Electronic throttle control
Naturally aspirated engine
Short ram air intake
Variable-length intake manifold
Warm air intake
Gasoline direct injection
Stratified charge engine
Turbo fuel stratified injection
High tension leads
Electrics and engine
Air–fuel ratio meter
Automatic Performance Control
Car battery (lead–acid battery)
Crankshaft position sensor
Drive by wire
Electronic control unit
Engine control unit
Engine coolant temperature sensor
Idle air control actuator
Mass flow sensor
Throttle position sensor
Automobile emissions control
Diesel particulate filter
Antifreeze (ethylene glycol)
Viscous fan (fan clutch)
Cylinder head porting
Part of the
Hybrid (Plug-in hybrid)
Internal combustion engine
Continuously variable transmission
Electrohydraulic manual transmission
Park by wire
Shift by wire
Transmission control unit
Wheels and Tires
Wheel hub assembly
Hybrid vehicle drivetrain
Chassis control system
Part of the
Anti-roll bar (sway bar)
De Dion tube
Ackermann steering geometry
Rack and pinion
Anti-lock braking system
Active rollover protection
Electric park brake
Electronic brakeforce distribution
Electronic stability control
Outline of tires
Automobile sales by model
Countries by motor vehicle production
Countries by car exports
Countries by vehicles per capita
Automotive industry crisis of 2008–10
History of the automobile
History of the internal combustion engine
History of the motorcycle
Timeline of motor vehicle brands
Minor automotive manufacturing groups
Association for Standardisation of Automation and Measuring Systems
Automobile Manufacturers Association
Organisation Internationale des Constructeurs d'Automobiles
Auto and motor shows
Private railroad car
Hot air balloon
Vehicles for hire
Personal rapid transit
Personal public transport
Personal rapid transit
High-occupancy vehicle lanes
Automotive navigation system
Environmental impact of transport