Automobiles are vehicles that carry people or cargo, and can be powered by gasoline, diesel, kerosene, steam, electricity, or some other fuel. Two-wheeler vehicles such as mopeds and scooters are not considered automobiles, but four-wheelers such as cars, jeeps, trucks, buses, vans and lorries are. An automobile may be driven on the road, on a dirt or gravel path, or off-road.
The scientific and technical building blocks for the modern automobile go back a few hundred years. In the late 1600s, Christiaan Huygens invented a type of internal combustion engine that used gunpowder to ignite air and fire up a piston. This early invention was used in some horseless carriages. But it was not until the 1860s that Siegfried Marcus built a crude vehicle that was fueled by gasoline. It was not a success and it was put aside, but the idea remained alive.
In 1886 Gottlieb Daimler fitted a three-wheeled vehicle with a four-stroke gas engine of his own design. He and his assistant Wilhelm Maybach built about thirty such vehicles from about 1890 to 1895 at the Daimler works in Mannheim and at the Hotel Hermann, where they set up shop after falling out with their backers. Daimler died in 1900.
The automobile changed society in many ways. People gained the freedom to travel long distances for work and leisure, and services were developed to support their needs. These included restaurants, fast food, hotels and motels, and amusement parks. The automobile also brought new dangers, such as traffic accidents and pollution caused by exhaust fumes.