Automobiles are a vehicle that uses an internal combustion engine fueled by gasoline (petrol) or other fuel. They have four or more wheels, seat one to eight people and are used for passenger transportation. Automobiles are one of the most significant industrial objects of modern times, and their production is among the world’s largest industries. The automotive industry is also a major consumer of steel, petroleum and other products and employs many workers. The branches of engineering that deal with the design, manufacture and operation of automobiles are known as automotive engineering.

The development of the automobile is a fascinating subject and there are numerous theories of its origins. The earliest recorded autos were steam engines attached to wagons in the late 18th century. The modern gasoline-powered automobile was developed in the early 1900s by German engineer Karl Benz. Benz’s Patent-Motorwagen used a four-stroke internal combustion engine to propel the car. It was a huge step forward over the horse-drawn carriages of earlier days, as it could travel at a speed of up to three miles per hour.

Unlike horses, an automobile encloses its passengers inside a closed compartment, which protects them from bad weather and road conditions. The automobile became a key force for change in twentieth-century America, as it served as the backbone of a new consumer goods-oriented society and generated great wealth for its manufacturers. The automobile revolutionized the lives of its owners, as it allowed them to move easily between jobs, homes, recreational activities and shopping facilities. It gave urban dwellers the opportunity to rediscover pristine countryside landscapes and rural residents the chance to shop in cities. Cars brought families together, encouraged the exploration of new destinations and facilitated relaxed sexual attitudes. It also caused traffic jams, accidents and led to demands for safety features like seat belts and highway rules and regulations governing driver licensing and safety.

The booming industry of automobiles required a wide range of support services, including garages, gas stations and repair shops. These businesses employed a great number of people and created a large demand for consumer goods, especially tires and spare parts.

After the Second World War, automobile production in America continued to grow rapidly and car companies began to offer more models and options, as well as larger vehicles. The American “Big Three”—Ford, General Motors and Chrysler—led the industry.

As automobiles grew in popularity around the world, new technologies were developed to make them safer and more efficient. Some of these include airbags, antilock brakes and side-impact protection. Some cars also use regenerative braking, which converts the energy of motion into electricity to recharge their batteries. These are just some of the innovations that have made the automobile a vital part of everyday life for people all over the world. Without the automobile, it would be hard to imagine what life is like today. Almost all of us depend on this form of transport to get from one place to another.