Automobiles are motor vehicles that are designed for the transportation of passengers and cargo on roads. They are powered by an internal combustion engine (gasoline, diesel, kerosene or hydrogen) or electric motor and have four wheels. They are the most common type of motor vehicle. Each year 5 – 59 million automobiles of different types are produced in the world. They can be used for transporting goods and passengers, for sport or utility purposes.

The word “automobile” comes from the Latin words, auto (self) and mobilis (move). It refers to something that can be moved easily or independently from one place to another. The first automobiles were steam engines attached to wagons in the late 18th century. They were slow and difficult to control. Better and faster steam cars were developed later in the 19th century by such men as Nicolaus Otto, Gottlieb Daimler and Karl Benz.

By the early 20th century, many automobile companies had developed and improved their production processes and the car as a mode of transportation had become widely accepted. The mass-production technique introduced by Henry Ford radically changed the industry. This involved assembling a number of parts on an assembly line where each worker did one specific task and the car components passed along on conveyer belts. It was a method that allowed the manufacture of inexpensive cars to be scaled up to mass production.

After World War II, the number of automakers grew significantly. Most of them, however, did not produce their own car parts. Most of them had started as bicycle makers, or as builders of horse-drawn carriages, or even as manufacturers of other machinery, such as sewing machines. The few who could reconcile state-of-the-art automobile design with moderate prices succeeded in the marketplace.

The automobile opens up the possibility of working and living in places that were previously unavailable, and it can allow people to travel long distances in relative comfort. This can increase work possibilities and open up new social relationships. It also allows people to expand their families beyond the confines of a single city or region.

All automobiles must be capable of stopping in a hurry to avoid causing accidents, as well as to stop the car from rolling when parked. The simplest way to achieve this is with brakes, which are made of friction pads that press against the car’s wheel rims or discs. Most of them are hydraulically operated by the transmission system, but they may also be mechanically or electrically actuated. Some electric automobiles have regenerative brakes that convert the energy in their movement into electricity to recharge their batteries.

The suspension system of a car includes a chassis, a bodywork and the wheels, axles and tires. They provide the support for the weight of the car and allow it to be driven over various road conditions. A car’s tires have a special rubber compound that is designed to keep the wheels in contact with the road, giving it traction on wet or dry roads.