Automobiles are vehicles that run on wheels and are powered by engines. They are often driven by humans, but can also be automated so they do not need to be controlled. There are many different types of automobiles, from small cars to trucks, buses and vans. Some are designed for emergency situations, such as fire engines and ambulances. Others are made for comfort, such as passenger cars and trucks.
The modern automobile was perfected in Germany and France toward the end of the nineteenth century by people such as Gottlieb Daimler, Karl Benz, and Nicolaus Otto. Henry Ford introduced mass production techniques to car-making in the early twentieth century, and his Model T became the world’s best-selling vehicle. After World War II automobile production and sales grew rapidly around the globe.
Cars are complex machines with systems that work together. The engine provides the power that turns the wheels and produces electricity for lights and other systems. There are other systems that control and steer the car, keep it running smoothly and safely, and provide passengers with comfortable seats and air conditioning. Safety features include seat belts, anti-lock brakes, and electronic stability control. In addition, there are warning signals and lights to alert drivers of problems.
Besides the engine, other important parts of an automobile are its chassis, which holds the mechanical components, and the body, which encloses them. The body can be made from metal, fiberglass or other materials. It includes the passenger compartment, trunk and hood. It may also include doors, windows and bumpers. Some bodies are shaped like a sedan or coupe, which have two doors and can hold four or five people. Other bodies are shaped like a minivan, which has three or more doors and can carry eight or nine people.
An important advantage of the automobile is its ability to travel over long distances, at speeds that would be impossible with human power alone. It also allowed families to move away from city centers and live in suburban neighborhoods with houses surrounded by green lawns. This lifestyle was an expression of a growing predisposition in the United States for individual freedom of movement and action.
The automotive industry contributes a lot to the economy. It employs millions of people worldwide in factories that produce cars and at gas stations, restaurants and motels where travelers stop. Millions of people die in car accidents every year, and the air is polluted by exhaust from automobiles. Cars also cause traffic problems in cities, and parking space is scarce.
The most popular automobiles are the Japanese brands such as Toyota, Honda and Nissan. However, other brands, such as BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Subaru are catching up with them. Consumer Reports ranks the top cars based on road test scores, reliability and owner satisfaction surveys, safety results and value for the money. It is possible to save on fuel and repair costs by buying a used automobile. However, it is important to remember that owning a car comes with a responsibility to maintain the vehicle regularly and keep it in good condition.