Automobiles are wheeled motor vehicles that seat one to eight people and are used for transport. They are powered by internal combustion of a volatile fuel, usually gasoline. Automobiles can be adapted to carry loads, and many have special features like air conditioning or stereo systems. They can be fueled by petroleum products such as petrol and diesel, natural gas, propane, or liquefied petroleum gas (LPG). They may also use electricity to run some of their systems, or a combination of these and other fuels. Various technologies have been developed to make automobiles safer and more fuel efficient.
The modern automobile was largely perfected in Germany and France during the late 1800s by Karl Benz, Gottlieb Daimler, and Nicolaus Otto. The first practical automobiles had four-stroke engines and were built in factories. The automobile industry boomed in the United States during the early 1900s, as American manufacturers innovated production techniques. Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler emerged as the dominant car companies, and demand for their products soared.
Cars have influenced society in many ways. For example, they have allowed people to work from home or travel long distances for business or pleasure. They have enabled families to live together in distant locations, and they have made it possible for people from rural areas to visit urban centers.
However, the benefits of owning an automobile should be weighed against its associated costs, such as purchasing, fuel, maintenance, and insurance costs. In addition, having a car can cause pollution and congestion. Other forms of transportation, such as buses, trains, trams, and subways, can be used to get to destinations faster and cheaper than an automobile.