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Main article: Automotive design
The 1955 CitroŽn DS; revolutionary visual design and technological innovation.
The 1955 Citroën DS; revolutionary visual design and technological innovation.

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 in order to convince car owners that they needed to buy a new replacement each year. Since 1935 automotive form has been driven more by consumer expectations than by 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.[14] Recent efforts include the highly publicized DARPA Grand Challenge race.[15]

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.



Main article: Car safety
Main article: Automobile accident
Result of a serious automobile accident.
Result of a serious automobile accident.

Road traffic injuries represent about 25% of worldwide injury-related deaths (the leading cause) with an estimated 1.2 million deaths (2004) each year.[16]

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,[17] Mary Ward, who became one of the first document automobile fatalities in 1869 in Parsonstown, Ireland,[18] and Henry Bliss, one of the United State's first pedestrian automobile casualties in 1899 in New York.[19]

Cars have many basic safety problems - for example, they have human drivers who make mistakes, wheels that lose traction when the braking or turning forces are too high. Some vehicles have a high center of gravity and therefore an increased tendency to roll over. When driven at high speeds, collisions can have serious or even fatal consequence.

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[citation needed] 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. This is reflected in most cars produced today.

Airbags, a modern component of automobile safety
Airbags, a modern component of automobile safety

Significant reductions in death and injury have come from the addition of Safety belts and laws in many countries to require vehicle occupants to wear them. Airbags and specialised child restraint systems have improved on that. Structural changes such as side-impact protection bars in the doors and side panels of the car mitigate the effect of impacts to the side of the vehicle. Many cars now include radar or sonar detectors mounted to the rear of the car to warn the driver if he or she is about to reverse into an obstacle or a pedestrian. Some vehicle manufacturers are producing cars with devices that also measure the proximity to obstacles and other vehicles in front of the car and are using these to apply the brakes when a collision is inevitable. There have also been limited efforts to use heads up displays and thermal imaging technologies similar to those used in military aircraft to provide the driver with a better view of the road at night.

There are standard tests for safety in new automobiles, like the EuroNCAP and the US NCAP tests.[20] There are also tests run by organizations such as IIHS and backed by the insurance industry.[21]

Despite technological advances, there is still significant loss of life from car accidents: About 40,000 people die every year in the United States, with similar figures in Europe. This figure increases annually in step with rising population and increasing travel if no measures are taken, but the rate per capita and per mile travelled decreases steadily. The death toll is expected to nearly double worldwide by 2020. A much higher number of accidents result in injury or permanent disability. The highest accident figures are reported in China and India. The European Union has a rigid program to cut the death toll in the EU in half by 2010 and member states have started implementing measures.

Automated control has been seriously proposed and successfully prototyped. Shoulder-belted passengers could tolerate a 32 g emergency stop (reducing the safe intervehicle gap 64-fold) if high-speed roads incorporated a steel rail for emergency braking. Both safety modifications of the roadway are thought to be too expensive by most funding authorities, although these modifications could dramatically increase the number of vehicles that could safely use a high-speed highway.


Fuel and propulsion technologies

The Henney Kilowatt, the first modern (transistor-controlled) electric car.
The Henney Kilowatt, the first modern (transistor-controlled) electric car.
2007 Tesla Roadster
2007 Tesla Roadster
See also: Alternative fuel vehicle

Most automobiles in use today are propelled by gasoline (also known as petrol) or diesel internal combustion engines but these are known to cause air pollution and are also blamed for contributing to climate change and global warming.[11] Increasing costs of oil-based fuels and tightening environmental laws and restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions are propelling work on alternative power systems for automobiles. Efforts to improve or replace these technologies include hybrid vehicles, electric vehicles and hydrogen vehicles.


Diesel engined cars have long been popular in Europe with the first models being introduced in the 1930s by Mercedes Benz and Citroen. The main benefit of Diesel combustion engines is its 50% fuel burn efficiency compared with 27%[12] in the best gasoline engines. A down side of the diesel is the presence in the exhaust gases of fine soot particulates and manufacturers are now starting to fit filters to remove these. Many <


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Mazda Bt-50

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