Automobiles, also known as cars or motor vehicles are four-wheeled transportation vehicles that carry passengers and are powered by an internal combustion engine, which is usually fueled by gasoline. Designed to travel on roads and highways, they are the most popular vehicle in the world. They have changed the way people live, work, and play by giving them freedom to move about and explore new places. They are a vital component of the modern economy, generating revenue for industries that manufacture components and fuel them, as well as for those that produce other products and services that depend on the car’s use.

The automobile was first perfected in Germany and France toward the end of the nineteenth century by such inventors as Gottlieb Daimler, Karl Benz and Nicolaus Otto. But the American Henry Ford came to dominate the industry in the 1920s by introducing mass production techniques. He had workers stand in a single place and do only one task as parts passed them on a conveyor, producing cars quickly and inexpensively enough to be affordable for middle-class Americans.

In the United States, the automobile grew into an indispensable part of a consumer goods-oriented society. It ranked first in value-added, providing one out of six jobs. It was the lifeblood of a major petroleum industry and the chief customer of ancillary industrial producers, including steel and other raw materials. By the late 1930s automobiles accounted for nearly half of all manufactured goods in the country.

It also revolutionized transportation by enabling urban dwellers to rediscover pristine landscapes and rural residents to shop in cities. Families could now travel long distances, and teenagers gained independence with driving freedom. Dating couples could meet at a more convenient time and place, and the automobile facilitated relaxed sexual attitudes.

Although the automobile brought many social changes, it also produced serious problems, such as traffic congestion, accidents, and air pollution. Soon demands were made for licensure and safety regulations at the state level. In addition, there were economic issues related to the heavy use of automobiles and the dependence on oil and metals.

Automobiles are now becoming computerized, and they may even drive themselves in the future. This would make them safer, more efficient, and less costly to operate. However, these changes will take some time. Until then, drivers must pay attention to the road and obey all traffic laws. They should also look for safe parking, and make sure their cars are well maintained.