An automobile is a wheeled passenger vehicle that carries its own motor. Most definitions of the term specify that automobiles are designed to run primarily on roads, to have seating for one to six people, typically have four wheels and be constructed principally for the transport of people rather than goods. However, the term is far from precise.

History

An automobile powered by the Otto gasoline engine was invented in Germany by Karl Benz in 1885. Benz was granted a patent dated 29 January 1886 in Mannheim for that automobile. Even though Benz is credited with the invention of the modern automobile, several other German engineers worked on building automobiles at the same time. In 1886, Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach in Stuttgart patented the first motor bike, built and tested in 1885, and in 1886 they built a converted horse-drawn stagecoach. In 1870, German-Austrian inventor Siegfried Marcus assembled a motorized handcart, though Marcus' vehicle did not go beyond the experimental stage.

Safety

Automobile accidents are almost as old as automobiles themselves. Early examples include, Joseph Cugnot, who crashed his steam-powered "Fardier" against a wall in 1771, Mary Ward, who became one of the first document automobile fatalites on August-31, 1869 in Parsonstown, Ireland, and Henry Bliss, one of the United State's first automobile casulties 1899-09-13 in New York City, NY.

Cars have two basic safety problems: They have human drivers who make mistakes, and the wheels lose traction when braking or turning forces are close to a half gravity.

Early safety research focused on increasing the reliability of brakes and reducing the flammability of fuel systems. For example, modern engine compartments are open at the bottom so that fuel vapors, which are heavier than air, vent to the open air. Brakes are hydraulic and dual circuit so that failures are slow leaks, rather than abrupt cable breaks. Systematic research on crash safety started in 1958 at Ford Motor Company. Since then, most research has focused on absorbing external crash energy with crushable panels and reducing the motion of human bodies in the passenger compartment.

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