A car, automobile or motorcar is a wheeled motor vehicle designed for use on roads. Most modern cars are powered by internal combustion engines that run on gasoline or diesel fuel. Other types of fuel include liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) and electric energy from a battery. The speed and power of an automobile is determined by its engine or motor, the weight of the vehicle, its center of gravity, and its suspension characteristics.

Automobiles can be steered either by hand or using a steering wheel. They also have brakes that can slow the car or stop it when parked. The most advanced automobiles have regenerative brakes that turn the energy from braking back into electricity to charge the battery. These systems reduce fuel consumption and help the cars last longer.

Cars are a key to modern life because they allow people to travel quickly and easily between destinations. In the past, getting from one place to another often meant a long and tedious walk or a ride on a horse-drawn carriage. But with the advent of automobiles, people could travel to work or school, run errands and meet friends and family. Today, almost every aspect of our lives seems inconceivable without the convenience of an automobile.

The earliest automobiles used steam engines attached to wagons, but they were heavy and difficult to control. The first gasoline automobiles came into use in the early 1900s. They were much faster than the old horse-drawn carriages and used a simpler, more efficient engine that allowed them to be driven by a regular driver. Gasoline automobiles eventually won out over the competing steam and electric models, largely because of Henry Ford’s use of mass production to lower their price so that most middle-class families could afford them.

While modern automobiles are much safer than their predecessors, they can still cause accidents. People can be hurt or killed in a crash, and the environment can suffer as well. To minimize the risk, safety features such as airbags, seat belts and specialized child restraints have been developed. In addition, safety-belt usage has been boosted by laws requiring it in many countries.

The modern automobile is an extremely complex machine, and its design depends to a large extent on the type of driving it is intended for. For example, automobiles that will be used off-road need rugged systems with high resistance to overload and extreme operating conditions. On the other hand, vehicles designed for high-speed road transport need comfortable passenger seats and optimized handling and vehicle stability. In most cases, the automobile’s design must also meet government regulations regarding noise pollution and emissions. Some countries also require the use of alternative fuels to protect the environment.