An automobile (also called a motor car) is a wheeled passenger vehicle that has its own engine to move. Its name is derived from the Greek prefix “auto” (self) and Latin word for moving (“mobilis”). Automobiles come in many shapes and sizes, for a variety of purposes. They can be used for leisure, such as a limousine or a sports car, or for work and business, such as a utility van or truck. Automobiles can also be designed for safety, such as a fire truck or ambulance, or for comfort, like a luxury sedan or a station wagon. There are even special automobiles for use at construction sites, such as a crane vehicle or road roller.

The automobile radically changed American life in the 20th century, providing people with more freedom and access to jobs and services. It spurred the development of suburban communities, interstate highways, drive-in movies and fast-food restaurants. Today, Americans drive three trillion miles a year on average.

Gottlieb Wilhelm Daimler, a German industrialist and engineer, invented the first gas-powered internal combustion engine in 1885. He had been a mechanical engineering student at Stuttgart Polytechnic and worked on a need for a small, practical engine for automobiles. He and his partner, Karl Maybach, spent ten years on the project before their engine was ready to go into production.

Despite early failures, the automobile was soon in widespread use. It allowed people to travel farther and faster than ever before, and it created new jobs. Industries and new businesses grew to supply automobile parts and fuel. Service stations and convenience stores sprang up as well.

In the United States, cheap raw materials and a lack of tariff barriers encouraged manufacturers to produce cars in great numbers. They competed to make their cars more affordable, and Henry Ford was the first to develop assembly lines to speed up production. His Model T, produced between 1914 and 1924, was affordable for middle-class families and sold millions of units.

Although the automobile brought great benefits, it also caused new problems. Traffic congestion and air pollution arose as too many cars traveled on the same roads. The exhaust from these vehicles was harmful to human health, and it contributed to climate change.

Nevertheless, the automobile was an important invention, and it continues to be one of the most significant innovations in history. It provides a sense of independence and freedom, as people can travel wherever they want without having to rely on others for transportation. This type of transportation can also save time and money, as people do not have to wait for buses or trains. There are many different types of cars, including hybrids. There are also other ways to get around, such as trains, subways and trams. These options can help to reduce traffic and environmental damage, and they can take people where they need to go more quickly and cost-effectively than an automobile can. This is why the use of automobiles should be carefully considered.