An automobile is a motor vehicle for transportation that has four wheels and an internal combustion engine powered most often by gasoline (petrol). It is self-propelled, meaning it does not require energy from outside to move. The name derives from the Greek prefix “auto” (self) and the Latin word for moving, or “mobilis.” Today there are many different kinds of cars. Some are built for people who prefer to travel in comfort and style, while others are designed for performance and utility.
An automotive vehicle is composed of thousands of separate components. They are arranged in several semi-independent systems to perform the various functions of the car. The most important of these are the engine, suspension system and transmission system. Other important systems include the body, chassis, cooling and lubrication systems, safety systems, control systems and emissions-control systems.
Automobiles are a significant component of the modern economy, and the most widely used mode of passenger transportation. There are about 1.4 billion of them in operation worldwide, and they cover more than three trillion miles (5 trillion kilometers) each year on average. In addition to providing an essential means of transport, they have revolutionized industrial manufacturing by introducing new methods such as mass production and the assembly line.
The technical building blocks of the modern automobile date back several hundred years. In the late 1600s, Christiaan Huygens invented a type of internal combustion engine fueled by gunpowder. In 1886, Karl Benz made the first modern automobile by using this engine to power his Benz Patent-Motorwagen.
Modern automotive technology has made possible a wide range of features to improve the safety and convenience of automobiles. In addition to advanced airbags and seatbelts, the latest models of automobiles are designed to withstand a greater range of forces and crashes, and to minimize the impact and damage when they do crash. Some are even equipped with special crumple zones that help absorb the shock.
One of the main reasons for owning a car is its convenience. It allows the driver to travel farther and faster than is possible by other means of transportation. It also eliminates the need to rely on friends or public buses and gives the owner more independence over his or her daily schedule. In addition, a car can carry large amounts of luggage and can easily reach places that are inaccessible to other wheeled vehicles such as mountains or forests. For these reasons, a private car is considered an indispensable part of the modern way of life.