Automobiles are vehicles used for passenger transportation. Modern automobiles are mainly powered by an internal combustion engine running on gasoline or diesel fuel, though some use alternative energy sources such as electricity or liquid petroleum gas (LPG). The body of the car provides space for passengers and storage, and houses the systems that make the car function.
During the first half of the 20th century, it became nearly impossible to imagine a modern life without an automobile. The new cars made travel over long distances possible, opening up a range of leisure activities and services like restaurants, hotels, amusement parks, and recreation areas. They also allowed middle-class families to buy their own cars, creating a huge consumer market and giving rise to new industries like auto manufacturing.
The term “automobile” derives from the Greek prefix auto (self) and Latin word mobilis (moving). It refers to a four-wheeled vehicle designed for passenger transportation and typically propelled by an internal combustion engine fueled with volatile fuel. Some modern automobiles are also driven by an electric motor and have a rechargeable battery.
The automobile was originally developed in the United States by entrepreneurs such as Henry Ford, who introduced industrial production methods using assembly lines to speed up the manufacturing process and reduce the price of the Model T. Other manufacturers soon followed suit, introducing a wide variety of automobile models to cater to a broad range of tastes and needs. The era of the annually restyled road cruiser came to an end with the imposition of standards for automotive safety, emissions of pollutants, and energy consumption; rising prices for oil and the development of alternative fuels; and with competition from European makers of small, functionally-designed, gasoline-efficient cars.