An automobile (also called a car) is a type of vehicle that uses a motor or engine to move it. The word comes from the Greek prefix auto (self) and the Latin verb mobilis, meaning “moving”. Automobiles are designed to carry people, but they can also be used for cargo or other purposes such as for transporting machinery or equipment.
The invention of the automobile, which has been credited to German inventor Carl Benz in 1886, changed the way people traveled. Its use became widespread in Europe and North America by the 1920s.
It is now the primary form of family transportation in most countries, and it has revolutionized economics and culture. It provides access to jobs and other services, such as hotels and restaurants, and it also gives people a sense of freedom and independence that they might not otherwise have.
Despite these advantages, automobiles are not without their problems. They can crash, they cause air pollution, and they can make it difficult to get around when there is traffic congestion.
They can also cost money to run, and they need to be kept in good condition. It is possible to limit the amount of emissions from an automobile by using less fuel and by keeping it in good condition.
Automobiles are made in many different shapes and sizes for different needs. There are small cars, large SUVs and minivans, sports cars, and even motorcycles.
There are also special automobiles, such as ambulances and fire engines, that are designed to rescue or protect people from accidents or incidents. These vehicles also have special brakes that are designed to work quickly and safely in an emergency.
In addition to automobiles, there are other types of vehicles, such as buses, trains and trams. These are often cheaper and faster to travel in than automobiles.
They can be made of a variety of materials, such as metal, wood or plastic. They can be powered by electricity, gasoline or diesel.
A car’s body is designed to carry a large number of passengers or to transport cargo and gear. It is also shaped to accommodate various seating arrangements, and it has to be sturdy enough to withstand the forces of acceleration, braking and steering.
Some of the most popular types of automobile are sedans, hatchbacks, station wagons and minivans. Sedans are designed for a compact interior and can be fitted with seating for four or five occupants, while hatchbacks and station wagons usually have a larger cargo area.
There are a number of safety features, such as seatbelts and airbags, that can help prevent injuries in an accident. These can be especially helpful for children, who have a higher risk of injury than adults.
In some countries, laws require occupants to wear seatbelts when riding in an automobile. This reduces the number of deaths caused by car crashes and improves the chances of survival if the driver is killed in an accident.
Other features of automobiles include power brakes that stop the car when needed, and regenerative brakes that slow the car by turning back the energy in its movement into electricity, like an electric motor working the opposite way.