Automobiles are motor vehicles designed to carry a driver and a small number of passengers. They run on a fuel (gasoline, diesel, gas turbine, electricity) that is ignited to provide power to the driving wheels. The car has a chassis and bodywork that protects the passengers and cargo, and it has controls for driving, stopping, and turning. It also has a control system, electrical equipment, and service devices. In recent years, there have been hundreds of new car models introduced.

The modern automobile is powered by an internal combustion engine that burns gasoline, diesel fuel, or kerosene to turn a crankshaft to drive the wheels. The engine is driven by a piston that moves down in a cylinder when the engine is running, and it is turned back up when the vehicle is stopped. The power generated by the engine is transmitted through a transmission and then to the wheels.

Invented in the late 1800s, the automobile revolutionized transportation in the United States and throughout the world. The Ford Motor Company and General Motors became the leading manufacturers after the invention of the assembly line, where workers do one job at a time and parts pass through conveyor belts.

In the United States, more than three trillion miles (five trillion kilometres) are driven annually in passenger cars. The automotive industry provides jobs for millions of people worldwide, including those who work in factories and at gas stations or restaurants that serve travelers. The industry also supports a wide range of other businesses, from real estate and mortgage companies to insurance agencies and auto repair shops.

The automobile makes it possible for people to live in far-flung places and reach cities within a few hours. It gives them access to services and leisure activities that were not available before, such as amusement parks, movie theaters, and fast food restaurants. But the automobile can cause problems when it is used carelessly or by people who don’t obey traffic laws. Thousands of people die in accidents every year, and pollution from the exhaust of gasoline-powered cars is damaging the environment.

In the early 1900s, European and Japanese manufacturers developed smaller, more fuel-efficient cars that competed with American designs. The automobile is now used in almost every country in the world and plays a major role in economic development. It is the primary mode of transport for most middle-class families, and there are over 60 million vehicles in operation in the United States alone. The vast majority of these are passenger cars, but sport utility vehicles (SUVs) and minivans have become increasingly popular with consumers in the past decade. Electric cars are becoming more common, and they may eventually replace the gasoline-powered vehicle. They are usually smaller and more fuel-efficient than traditional cars, but they have lower acceleration rates than regular vehicles. This makes them less suitable for long trips. Some people also prefer hybrid-electric cars, which combine a traditional gasoline or diesel engine with an electric motor for greater acceleration and efficiency.