Automobiles are four-wheeled vehicles used to carry passengers and cargo. The word comes from the Greek prefix auto- (“self”) and the Latin word movibus (carrying or moving). Most automobiles burn a fuel to power an internal combustion engine, which sends energy through a set of gears to the wheels. The speed and power of the engine, as well as how quickly the gears turn, determine how fast the vehicle goes. The most common fuel for automobiles is gasoline (petrol), but some vehicles use natural gas, electricity or another type of fuel.
The automobile has revolutionized the world, spawning new industries and services including fast-food chains and amusement parks. But it can also be dangerous when drivers are distracted, inattentive or tired.
A car is the most personal means of transport available, allowing individuals to travel at their own pace and without having to wait for or worry about the schedules of others. The independence that comes with owning a car can help improve an individual’s work and social lives, but it can also lead to other destructive behavior, such as substance abuse and reckless driving.
With a growing population, more people need access to transportation than ever before. Automobiles make modern life possible by enabling people to commute and travel for recreation, shopping and work.
The first automobiles appeared in the late 1800s and were perfected in Germany and France by engineers like Gottlieb Daimler, Karl Benz and Emile Levassor. By 1920, the gasoline-powered automobile had overtaken the streets and highways of Europe and America. American businessman Henry Ford invented the mass production of cars using assembly lines and lowered the price so they could be affordable for middle-class families.
Today’s automobiles have a variety of body styles, from hatchbacks to minivans, and offer different passenger and cargo capacities. Passenger cars account for most of the vehicles on the road and have become a vital mode of family transportation, with Americans logging more than three trillion miles (five trillion kilometers) each year.
Choosing the right automobile is a major decision that should be made carefully. A vehicle that performs well in a variety of situations and offers the latest features will likely be the most popular choice, but it’s important to consider other factors as well.
Some of the most important factors to weigh when selecting an automobile are fuel economy, safety, comfort and price. A top pick in the compact category is the Toyota Corolla, which has excellent reliability ratings from J.D. Power and Kelley Blue Book, as well as a great warranty program. Another good option is the Honda Civic, which has a spacious interior and high fuel economy. If you want something sporty, check out the Subaru Impreza or WRX.