A motor vehicle is a wheeled vehicle which is self-propelled by means of a motor or engine, and does not operate on tracks or rails. Motorized vehicles include cars, trucks, motorcycles, and motorized bicycles. Automobiles are ubiquitous and their presence has deeply shaped our culture and lifestyle; easier transportation of people and goods has allowed the dissemination of ideas, has changed the way we work, consume, and live, and has indeed made the world a smaller place.
According to the International Organization of Motor Vehicle Manufacturers, roughly 87% of the motorized vehicles in production are cars, with trucks, motorized bicycles, motorcycles and other light commercial vehicles constituting the remaining 13%. Nearly 250 million motor vehicles are registered in the U.S., and an estimated 16-17 million new cars were sold in the U.S. each year from 1999-2007. The People's Republic of China has the second-largest fleet of motor vehicles, with an estimated 78 million vehicles.
The history of motorized vehicles, specifically automobiles, began with steam-powered engines. Nicolas Joseph Cugnot is credited with the invention of the first self-propelled road vehicle--a tractor powered by a steam engine built in 1770. By the mid 1830's, these early steam-powered carriages were carrying passengers regularly, but were a social annoyance--they were loud and dirty. An internal-combustion engine was developed in 1860 by Jean Joseph Etienne Lenoir, and in 1885 Gottleib Daimler and Karl Benz made the first successful gasoline engine. The internal-combustion engine developed by Daimler and Benz is the type still used in today's cars.
In 1901, Ransom Eli Olds of the Olds Motor Works became the first to mass-produce cars in the U.S., and was the first to use the assembly line method of production. Henry Ford improved upon the assembly line production process, and introduced the Model T. The Model T revolutionized car culture in the U.S. because Henry Ford had managed to cut production costs to a level that made the Model T affordable to the average American. Other advancements in automobile history include the invention of the electric starter by General Motors in 1912, the production of the practical V-8 engine by Cadillac in 1914, and the introduction of tubeless tires in 1948.