Automobiles are a class of motor vehicles that use an internal combustion engine to propel them forward. They are typically four-wheeled and have a steering wheel, brakes and seats for the driver and passengers. They also have a control system, electrical equipment and service devices. The modern automobile has many different types, styles and sizes. Some are made for transporting only people, while others are designed to carry goods. These vehicles can be powered by various fuels, including gasoline, diesel fuel, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) and natural gas. They have become the dominant form of motor vehicle in most countries around the world.

The first automobiles were steam powered. A German inventor, Karl Benz, is credited with inventing the modern automobile, using a four-stroke internal combustion engine, in 1885. He was followed by Henry Ford, who revolutionized the manufacturing process by introducing the assembly line. This allowed cars to be produced much more quickly and at a lower cost. As a result, many more people could afford to own them.

In America, the automobile helped create a middle class and provided access to jobs and services that had previously been unavailable. It also contributed to the growth of leisure activities and the development of services like motels, hotels and amusement parks. It fueled a large economy and provided work for thousands of factories that built the engines, tires, bodies, and other parts. In addition, it stimulated the development of highways and related industries.

But the automobile also had a negative effect on society. It caused pollution from the exhaust of the engines, and it used up land that would have been better used for farming or other purposes. It also increased the risk of injury or death for pedestrians and other drivers, especially if accidents occurred. It also changed the way people live, by creating suburban communities and making it easier to move away from rural areas.

Today, there are over 1.4 billion automobiles in operation worldwide, and they account for about three trillion kilometres of travel per year. This figure represents a significant proportion of the planet’s population and economic activity. Automobiles are manufactured in almost every country in the world and have a tremendous influence on daily life. The automotive industry is one of the most important sources of employment in the United States, and it provides a huge share of its national income. It is also the largest purchaser of steel and petroleum products, and a major user of other industrial raw materials. In addition, it has become a leading consumer of electronic computers and advanced materials. It is the most important consumer of fuel, and it is a major contributor to global warming. It is a key component of the new economy, and it is responsible for many changes in our daily lives. It is a symbol of the hopes and dreams of many.