What Are Automobiles?

Automobiles are motor vehicles designed primarily for passenger transportation and commonly propelled by an internal combustion engine using gasoline (or other petroleum-based fuel), but can also be powered by diesel, gas balloon fuel, electricity or a combination. They are one of the most universal of modern technologies and, at least in developed countries, have become the main form of personal transport for many individuals and families.


An automobile gives you the freedom to travel wherever and whenever you want, without having to rely on the schedules of buses or trains. It also saves you time as you no longer have to wait for someone to pick you up. You can also spend more time with your family or friends since you don’t have to worry about making sure that you catch the bus or train before it leaves.

The technical building blocks of the automobile date back several hundred years, but they came together in the late 1800s, when engineers such as Christiaan Huygens invented a type of internal combustion engine sparked by gunpowder, and inventors such as Gottlieb Daimler, Karl Benz and Nicolaus Otto perfected the horseless carriage. At the turn of the century, three types of cars competed for market share: steam and electric power, which could reach high speeds but were limiting in range, and gasoline-powered automobiles that were able to go much farther than their battery-powered counterparts, but needed frequent stops for recharging.

In the early 1900s, Henry Ford innovated mass production techniques that radically increased car production and made automobiles more affordable to middle-class Americans. By the 1920s, the industry was dominated by three American automakers: Ford, General Motors and Chrysler. When manufacturers funneled their production to the war effort during World War II, automobile production and innovation slowed to a crawl, though new technologies continued to emerge in Japan, which became one of the most successful global automotive producers by 1980.

Today, the auto industry continues to thrive, with a wide array of new products on the market that cater to different segments of the consumer market. The newest cars feature electronic controls that replace the physical linkages between pedals, improved engine performance and optimized high-speed handling and stability.

There are also special automobiles designed for emergency use such as fire engines and ambulances. In general, these automobiles are more functional and well-designed than the passenger vehicles. The automotive industry has also made significant contributions to technology, including the development of lightweight materials such as carbon fiber and advanced alloys. It is a major source of employment in many industrialized nations. It is a leading industry in design, manufacturing and research, and has a tremendous impact on the world economy and global trade. There are more than 73 million automobiles currently in operation worldwide. These vehicles transport billions of people around the world every year and play a central role in urban mobility and economic development. Their popularity is reflected by the fact that the average household owns more than one vehicle.

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