Automobiles are vehicles that transport people and things. They usually have four wheels and an engine or motor to make them move, although some have just two. The industry is large and generates significant global revenue. It also consumes significant resources, including oil and steel. It also contributes to economic development in the areas where it operates.

The automobile revolutionized the United States economy in the 1920s, becoming a key force of change for America and the rest of the world. It boosted the growth of many other industries, such as steel and petroleum. It brought new services, such as motels and roadside restaurants, to rural areas. It promoted participation in recreational activities and sports. It also created jobs in highway construction. However, it also contributed to pollution and health problems. It became necessary to impose laws and government requirements to control the safety of automobiles, such as seatbelts, highway rules and drivers’ licenses. Its use prompted new industries to build gas stations and repair shops. Its demand for energy made it a leading consumer of natural resources. Its exhaust produced air pollution and accelerated climate change.

Karl Benz invented the automobile in 1885, and other inventors and engineers followed with their own designs. However, it was Henry Ford who developed modern mass production techniques that transformed the automobile industry in the United States. His assembly line allowed him to produce more cars at lower prices, making them affordable for the middle class. It also enabled automakers to sell more models and to enter markets in other countries.

Cars are now the primary mode of transportation for most households in the world. They are available in a range of shapes and sizes, with features to suit the needs of different consumers. Some are designed for city driving, others are intended to handle off-road conditions. Some are built with a high degree of safety and luxury, while others are designed for fuel efficiency.

The word automobile is derived from the Latin words “auto” (self) and “mobilis” (moving). It refers to vehicles that move on their own, without needing to be pulled by horses or other animals. The first automobiles were steam powered, but today most are driven by internal combustion engines. Some are powered by electricity, and a few have been built as hybrids.

The best automobiles have good road-test and predicted reliability scores, are easy to drive, and have comfortable interiors. They should have adequate cargo space and passenger room for most people’s needs. The Hyundai Elantra, which starts at $22,500, is a good example of a small car that has risen to the status of a desirable vehicle. This year it offers an interior that rivals more expensive cars and comes in gas, hybrid, and performance trim levels. In addition, it offers a 10-year/100,000-mile warranty. The Mazda3 is another excellent option, with a spacious rear seat and attractive materials.