Automobiles are self-propelled vehicles that use wheels for transport. They are powered by an internal combustion engine or an electric motor. Automobiles are an essential component of modern life. They facilitate movement of people and goods, and provide the means to reach remote locations. Automobiles are designed to meet specific requirements for driving, such as fuel economy, comfort and handling at high speeds. The branches of engineering that deal with automobiles are known as Automotive Engineering.

When an automobile is designed, its arrangements and choice of components depend on various factors. For example, a car intended for city driving must be capable of achieving good fuel economy on short trips, but if it is to have the performance characteristics of a sports car, it must be powerful enough to drive at high speeds comfortably. The best cars are flexible enough to perform satisfactorily in a variety of conditions and situations.

The modern automobile, developed in the late nineteenth century from horse-drawn carriages with engines added, is a sophisticated system that affects nearly every facet of American society. Its influence extends to urban transportation planning, police, fire and utility services, as well as recreational activities such as dining, shopping, and vacation travel. The manufacturing processes that began with the automobile have become standard production techniques in a wide range of industries.

During the first decades of the twentieth century, Americans were increasingly willing to purchase and operate their own automobiles. The convenience and independence that automobiles provided were a major factor in the expansion of suburbanization, as middle-class families moved from cities to suburbs.

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