Automobiles are motor vehicles designed for passenger transportation on land. They usually have four wheels and are fueled by gasoline, a liquid product. Earlier versions of automobiles used electricity, steam and even whale oil to power their engines. The modern automobile was perfected toward the end of the 19 th century in Germany and France by such men as Gottlieb Daimler, Karl Benz and Nikolaus Otto. Henry Ford greatly outpaced his competitors by reconciling state-of-the-art design with moderate price in the Model T, which was built using industrial production techniques.

Today, there are about a billion cars on the world’s roads. They are a vital part of the economy, providing millions of people with the freedom to travel where and when they want without having to wait for a bus or train. However, automobiles also cause many problems. They kill thousands of people every year in traffic accidents. They pollute the air that we breathe and they crowd city streets and make parking space scarce.

Engineers are constantly working on ways to improve the design and performance of automobiles. They are looking at new materials such as plastics and carbon fibers that are stronger and lighter than steel. They are also experimenting with alternative energy sources such as hybrids, biodiesel and hydrogen fuel cells. They are also trying to develop computerized systems that will allow a car to drive itself. Someday, a computerized car may even take people to their destination while they sit back and relax.

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