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Tuesday, October 16, 2007


An automobile (from Greek auto, self and Latin mobile moving, a vehicle that moves itself rather than being moved by another vehicle or animal) or motor car (usually shortened to just car) 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 eight people, to typically have four wheels, and to be constructed principally for the transport of people rather than goods.However, the term is far from precise.

There were 590 million passenger cars worldwide (roughly one car for every eleven people) as of 2002


The design of modern cars is typically handled by a large team of designers and engineers from many different disciplines. As part of the product development effort the team of designers will work closely with teams of design engineers responsible for all aspects of the vehicle. These engineering teams include: chassis, body and trim, powertrain, electrical and production. The design team under the leadership of the design director will typically comprise of an exterior designer, an interior designer (usually referred to as stylists), and a color and materials designer. A few other designers will be involved in detail design of both exterior and interior. For example, a designer might be tasked with designing the rear light clusters or the steering wheel. The color and materials designer will work closely with the exterior and interior designers in developing exterior color paints, interior colors, fabrics, leathers, carpet, wood trim, and so on.

In 1924 the American national automobile market began reaching saturation. To maintain unit sales, General Motors instituted annual model-year design changes (also credited to Alfred Sloan) in order to convince car owners they needed a replacement each year. Since 1935 automotive form has been driven more by consumer expectations than engineering improvement.

There have been many efforts to innovate automobile design funded by the NHTSA, including the work of the NavLab group at Carnegie Mellon University. Recent efforts include the highly publicized DARPA Grand Challenge race.

Acceleration, braking, and measures of turning or agility vary widely between different makes and models of automobile. The automotive publication industry has developed around these performance measures as a way to quantify and qualify the characteristics of a particular vehicle. See quarter mile and 0 to 60 mph.

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