Automobiles are vehicles that use an engine to make them move. They can carry passengers and cargo. The word “automobile” is derived from the Greek prefix “auto” (self) and the Latin words for moving (“mobilis”). The modern automobile is a complex technical system incorporating many subsystems with specific design functions. It is also an important part of modern life, providing convenience, time efficiency, and safety for families, as well as a means to explore new places.

The modern automobile is a sophisticated system with thousands of parts that must all function together. Among these are the chassis, which is analogous to the skeleton of the human body; and the body, which provides protection, comfort, and other features for passengers. The engine, transmission, suspension, and steering systems all contribute to the vehicle’s performance, handling, and safety. Many of these systems have evolved as the result of technological advances and consumer demands.

In the United States, a large majority of households own cars. This ownership provides convenient access to work, shopping, and leisure activities for family members. It has also enabled people to live in suburban areas and commute to cities for jobs. In addition to these personal uses, the automobile has contributed to a variety of public services and industry. Automobiles have helped to provide medical care, emergency services, police, fire, and utility services. They have also stimulated the economy by promoting the growth of manufacturing, retailing, and service industries.

Modern automobiles use a gasoline-based internal combustion engine to power the wheels of the car. To do this, they burn fuel in a chamber called the cylinder, which is connected to a crankshaft that spins the wheels of the car. The fuel that is used in most modern automobiles is a volatile liquid called gasoline, which is usually sold by the gallon.

Most automobiles are designed with front-wheel drive, although a few designs have rear-wheel drive. The layout of the engine and its relationship to other automotive systems depends on this choice, as does the suspension system. Most modern automobiles have independent front suspension, which allows each wheel to absorb shocks and variations in road surface, keeping the car stable.

In the early years of the automobile industry, a number of inventors produced prototypes and experimented with ways to improve the automobile’s engine. In 1883, Edouard Delamare-Deboutteville and Leon Malandin of France installed a four-stroke internal combustion engine on a tricycle. During the first test of this prototype, however, the tank hose came loose and caused an explosion that destroyed the automobile. Despite this setback, other inventors continued to develop and improve the motor car. Karl Benz is widely credited with the invention of the modern automobile, after he built his Benz Patent-Motorwagen in 1885. It was the first automobile that was designed and built as such, rather than as a converted carriage or boat. It was also the first gasoline-powered automobile. The following year, he improved the engine and received a patent for it.