Automobiles are vehicles designed to carry passengers and/or cargo. They are usually propelled by an internal combustion engine, burning a volatile fuel such as gasoline. The automobile has had a profound impact on the world’s economy, society and culture. It has changed where people live and work, making it possible for them to move to other parts of the country or even other countries. It has also influenced the types of businesses that open, such as restaurants, hotels and amusement parks. The automobile has also caused harm to the environment, because it releases harmful gases into the air. To reduce this problem some manufacturers are creating cars that run on alternative fuels or batteries.

The automobile was first invented and perfected in Germany and France toward the end of the nineteenth century by men such as Karl Benz, Gottlieb Daimler and Nicolaus Otto. But American businessman Henry Ford revolutionized the industry in the 1920s with his use of mass-production techniques. His new Highland Park, Michigan factory could turn out a Model T runabout for less than the average annual wage at the time. By 1927 15 million Model T’s had been sold.

Most modern automobiles are built using a variety of new technical developments. These are based on research and development in areas such as computer engineering, high-strength plastics and new alloys of steel and nonferrous metals. These technologies are used to improve the vehicle’s body, chassis, engine, drivetrain, control systems and safety and emissions-control systems. The automotive industry is one of the world’s largest consumers of specialized raw materials, including petroleum, iron and steel. In the United States it is a major source of employment and provides one out of six products in the value-added industrial sector.

After car production slowed down during the two world wars auto makers began adding more comfort and convenience features to their vehicles. Power steering and brakes became standard and air conditioning was introduced. Larger cars were produced, too, because consumers wanted to travel farther in comfort and with more luggage. This led to the expansion of the highway system in the 1950s and 1960s.

Today the automobile is still the most popular mode of transportation. It makes it easy for us to get to work, school, shops and visiting friends and family. However, its increased convenience and speed has also raised safety concerns. As a result, there are many laws and regulations in place to protect the driver and other people on the road. There are also special automobiles made to be used in emergencies, such as fire engines, ambulances and police patrol cars. There are also automobiles that are made for other types of work, such as crane vehicles at construction sites and fork-lifts in warehouses. Some of these are designed to be able to work under water, for example. There are also automobiles that are specially equipped for off-road driving, such as off-road trucks. And there are even automobiles that can be driven by people with disabilities.