Automobiles are cars, trucks and other vehicles that run on a internal combustion engine. The term comes from the Greek prefix auto (“self”) and Latin for mobile (“able to move”). Prior to automobiles, most means of transportation needed to be pulled by animals like horses. The automobile has its own source of power and therefore moves itself.

Modern cars are typically built on a body-on-frame design and have front-wheel or all-wheel drive. They are powered by an internal-combustion engine that runs on either gasoline or diesel fuel. The engines are housed in a transversely mounted engine compartment, which is behind the front axle. This layout allows for easy access to the car’s engine, wheels and transmission. In the past, the transmission was a manually operated gearbox that transferred power from the engine to the wheels. Nowadays, transmissions are usually automatic and transfer power to the wheels via a differential system.

Most automobiles use an internal combustion engine, but some also have electric motors for additional power or as a backup. The internal combustion engine burns a fuel such as petrol, diesel or kerosene in a cylinder and the energy of that explosion drives the piston down and turns the wheels of the vehicle. The piston then stops by means of a braking system.

There are many different kinds of automobiles, from a family sedan to a sports car or truck. The most common kind of automobile is the passenger car, which is designed to transport people. Its ancestor is the carriage, which was originally a horse-drawn vehicle that later became powered by human labor.

The invention of the automobile radically changed the way people live. It made it possible for people to travel long distances without having to stay at home or rely on someone else for transport. It also led to new industries and jobs, including the production of automobile parts and fuels and the development of roads and highways.

The first automobiles were expensive and only available to a wealthy few. The automobile industry was revolutionized by the businessman and engineer Henry Ford, who developed mass production techniques that reduced the price of his Model T so that it could be affordable for middle-class families. This helped to bring the automobile to the masses and ushered in the era of mass personal automobile mobility, or “automobility”.

Although automobiles provide great freedom of movement, they can be dangerous when driven recklessly. They can also pollute the air, especially when many of them are in close proximity to each other. For this reason, many cities have public transportation such as buses, passenger trains, trams or subways to help reduce traffic congestion and pollution. In addition, public transportation is often faster and cheaper than traveling by car. In addition, owning a car can be more stressful because of the responsibility to maintain and operate it. Therefore, most urban dwellers prefer to use other forms of transportation when possible.