An automobile is a passenger vehicle powered by an engine that uses the energy of motion to move on its own. It usually has four wheels and seating for one to seven people. It is used mostly on roads and has a distinct design that sets it apart from other passenger vehicles. The term is derived from the Latin words “auto” and “mobilis” (self-moving). Invented in 1885 by Karl Benz, who fitted his horseless carriage with a gasoline engine, the automobile revolutionized the way society worked. It gave people more freedom and access to jobs and services. It also brought in new industries like manufacturing and service businesses such as gas stations.
Automobiles come in many different shapes and sizes, with a wide variety of features and accessories. Some are more luxurious, while others have more practical uses. The most common types are sedans, sports cars, SUVs and trucks. Some of them have convertible roofs, which can be opened or removed for open-air driving. The automobile is the most important means of transportation in the world. It is a vital part of most families’ lives and it allows people to reach their destinations faster than they would be able to by walking or taking the bus.
In modern society, it is impossible to imagine life without an automobile. People use them to commute to work, school and other places of interest, as well as for family and leisure activities. In the United States alone, there are more than 4.8 trillion kilometers (three trillion miles) driven every year on average. In addition, there are over 140 million cars in the country.
Although automobiles make many things in our society easier, they can also cause problems. When too many of them are used in a small area, they can create traffic jams that slow everything down. They can also cause air pollution, which contributes to climate change. Many cities have public transportation such as buses, trams and trains that allow people to travel more quickly than by car when the roads are congested.
The automotive industry was first perfected in Germany and France in the late 1800s by engineers such as Gottlieb Daimler, Karl Benz and Nicolaus Otto. Henry Ford introduced mass production techniques that made the automobile affordable for middle-class people in the 1920s. After World War II, automobile manufacturers focused on military production before returning to civilian demand.
By the 1950s, nearly all automakers produced models that were similar in size and style, so consumers could choose from a wider range of price levels. A number of companies developed different brands under the same corporate umbrella, with each brand targeting a specific market segment. Several of these “sister” makes shared parts and components to keep prices low and increase sales. This is known as vertical integration and it helped to establish today’s dominant carmakers such as General Motors, Ford and Chrysler. There are now dozens of different brands of cars available worldwide.