An automobile is a four-wheeled motor vehicle designed for transportation on roads. It is a common means of transport in the United States and many other countries. Cars are typically driven by an internal combustion engine using a volatile fuel such as gasoline, petroleum or natural gas. They are one of the most important inventions in human history, giving people more freedom of movement and creating new industries that depend on the automobile.

Invented in the late 19th century, cars evolved from several independent efforts of inventors and engineers to create self-propelled vehicles. Karl Benz is usually credited with building the first true automobile in 1885, powered by an internal combustion engine. During the early years of the automobile industry, manufacturers competed in manufacturing processes, engineering innovations and aesthetic appeal of cars.

In the beginning, automobiles were expensive and available only to the wealthy. Eventually, inventors and engineers developed the automobile to make it more affordable for the general public. The most significant development came from Henry Ford, who introduced the assembly line and Model T, which revolutionized the automotive industry. Ford’s innovation made the automobile affordable to middle-class families in America and around the world.

The automobile is a complex technical system that includes thousands of parts with specific design functions. Some of these parts are advanced technologies, such as electronic computers and high-strength plastics. Others are basic components such as engines, brakes and suspension systems. Some are even part of the human body, including the seat and steering wheel.

Automobiles are fueled by internal combustion engines that use volatile fuels such as gasoline, natural gas or propane. During the first half of the 20th century, cars dominated the streets and highways of Europe and America. Manufacturers produced hundreds of models to compete in a highly competitive market. As automobiles became more affordable and safe, they replaced trains and boats as the primary mode of long-distance travel.

In modern times, it’s almost impossible to imagine life without a car. The United States is the largest car market in the world, and its residents drive more than three trillion miles (five trillion kilometres) each year on average.

Automobile manufacturers continue to push the envelope with innovative designs and features. The latest models offer comfortable seating and entertainment options for passengers, and safety features like air bags and backup cameras are standard on most models. Cars also boast more efficient engines and lighter, stronger materials to reduce fuel consumption and emissions.

An important feature of an automobile is the body, which encases all of its essential systems and provides a stylish appearance. The shape of the car body is determined by its purpose and must be both aerodynamic and functional. The car body must be able to hold passengers, provide storage space and carry the engine and other mechanical components. It must also provide unobstructed visibility through well-placed windows. In addition, the body must be strong and durable to withstand the forces of driving on rough roads.