Automobiles, also called automobiles, motorcars or cars, are four-wheeled vehicles that are intended for passenger transportation. They are propelled by an internal-combustion engine using a volatile fuel, most often gasoline. They are one of the most universal of modern technologies. Automobiles have transformed entire societies, especially in industrialized nations. They enable rapid, long-distance movement of individuals and offer flexible distribution of goods. They have also encouraged sprawl, a pattern of low-density urban development that degrades landscapes and increases traffic congestion. They are an indispensable tool for public safety services and private leisure activities, such as vacation travel and shopping. New technical developments in the body, chassis, engine, drive system, electrical systems, braking and suspension systems, and fuel and air management have improved their performance and quality.
The first cars, invented in the late nineteenth century, were essentially horse-drawn carriages fitted with engines. By the 1920s, American manufacturers had developed mass production techniques and established dominance in the global market.
Today, there are many different types of automobiles, including sedans, coupes, sports cars and SUVs. Some are designed to deliver performance, while others offer the space and versatility of a family car. There are even hybrids that combine the best of gas-powered and electric motors to offer an outlandish amount of driving range without sacrificing speed or handling.
There are also special automobiles for commercial purposes, such as a crane vehicle at a construction site or a fork-lift in a warehouse. There are also vehicles for specialized transport tasks, such as ambulances and fire trucks.