What Are Automobiles?


Automobiles, also known as cars, are motor vehicles used for carrying passengers on land. An automobile has four wheels and is powered by an internal combustion engine, most commonly gasoline, but also by other liquids and electricity. Its name is derived from the Greek prefix auto (self) and Latin word mobilis, meaning “moving.” Having your own automobile allows you to take control of your schedule by being able to go where and when you want to. This flexibility is especially valuable for busy people who have many commitments to meet and places to be.

The automotive industry is one of the world’s largest and most important, employing millions of workers in production plants worldwide. The automobile is a symbol of the modern age, reflecting not only technological progress but also social change and economic growth.

Invented and perfected in the late 1800s, the modern car was the key to a new consumer goods-oriented society and transformed the economies of nations. The automobile helped fuel the growth of steel, petroleum and other ancillary industries, and it provided the foundation for a whole new class of consumer goods.

As a mode of transportation, the automobile has many advantages over horse-drawn carriages and trains. It can travel much faster than the fastest horse, has greater passenger capacity and can accommodate luggage more easily. It has a much lower maintenance cost than a horse and its stables, requires fewer skills to operate, and can be driven by any person who has a driver’s license. The car also has a number of safety features that prevent serious accidents.

Despite its many advantages, there are disadvantages to automobile use. Automobiles can cause traffic congestion when too many of them try to drive at the same time, and they pollute the air with exhaust fumes. Moreover, the growing number of automobiles is contributing to global climate change, as well as creating demands for natural resources such as oil and steel.

There are a variety of different types of automobiles, each with its own distinctive style and features. The most common type is the sedan, which has four doors and a trunk. Other types include the hatchback, station wagon, passenger van and SUV. SUVs are built to combine the cargo-carrying capability of a pickup truck with the passenger-carrying space of a sedan.

The development of the automobile depended on a number of scientific and technical developments, beginning with Christiaan Huygens’ invention of a self-propelled internal-combustion engine in the late 1600s. By the end of the 19th century, European manufacturers had developed sophisticated designs that reflected a rich history of innovation and engineering expertise. But it was the American firm of Henry Ford that pioneered mass-production techniques, allowing him to capture 80 percent of the market. His introduction of the Model T, which brought the price of an automobile within the reach of middle-class Americans, proved to be a watershed moment for the industry. It marked the end of the era of free-wheeling competition among small producers and the rise of the Big Three — Ford, General Motors and Chrysler.