Automobiles are wheeled motor vehicles that primarily carry passengers. Most definitions specify that automobiles run mainly on roads, seat one to eight people, and have four wheels. Other than this, their design and construction are similar to those of other vehicles, such as buses, vans, limousines, and trucks. The term originates from the French for car, and is related to the word motor, as most of them have an internal combustion engine powered by gasoline, diesel or electricity.
Automobiles have had a major impact on society and they are a key component of most modern economies. They can transport goods and people across long distances more quickly than horses or ships, and allow for much faster communication between locations. They also allow individuals to travel independently and explore places that were previously inaccessible or unfeasible. The invention of the automobile has expanded the horizons of human exploration and opened new possibilities for business and social interactions.
The origins of the automobile date back several hundred years. In the late 1600s, Dutch scientist Christiaan Huygens invented a kind of internal combustion engine that could be fueled by gunpowder. In 1870, Siegfried Marcus of Austria built a crude vehicle that ran on a two-stroke, gasoline-fueled, internal combustion engine and was able to be driven on paved roads. The first automobiles were not very safe. They had human drivers who sometimes made mistakes, and the tires might lose traction when the forces were too high. In addition, some vehicles had a high centre of gravity, making them susceptible to rolling over when the acceleration was too great.
Karl Benz, an engineer, patented his version of the automobile in 1885. His wife Bertha was the first person to drive a car over a long distance, which she did in an effort to gain publicity for her husband’s invention. The automobile exploded in popularity after World War I, when Henry Ford introduced assembly line production and reduced the price so that middle class families could afford them.
After the development of paved highways, the automobile became a main mode of transportation in the United States and Europe. The growth of the automobile industry helped create jobs and facilitated trade in the world economy. It also helped the middle class grow, and it was possible for women to leave the house and work outside the home.
Today, there are more than 480 million passenger cars in the world. They are mostly owned by middle-class families and most use gasoline as their fuel. Some of them are hybrids, which use both gas and electricity. These cars emit fewer pollutants than other vehicles. However, they have a lower mileage than non-hybrids, so they require more frequent trips to gas stations. They are also more expensive to repair and have a higher rate of breakdowns than other vehicles. Nevertheless, they remain the most popular means of transportation. In fact, it is almost inconceivable to imagine living without a car.