Automobiles are vehicles used for transportation, usually powered by an internal combustion engine that burns a volatile fuel. They have become a major part of the world’s transport system, with over 1.4 billion cars in operation worldwide.

The automobile has opened up the world to people, enabling them to move from one area to another easily and quickly. This has facilitated the development of leisure activities, such as restaurants and amusement parks. It has also allowed individuals to work in many different places and thus increase the number of potential social contacts, making it easier for them to develop relationships with new people.

However, the automobile has had some negative effects on the environment. For example, the exhaust from petrol-powered cars has contributed to air pollution. In addition, undeveloped land has been used for the construction of highways and related industries.

In order to reduce these negative impacts, various measures have been taken. For example, strict standards have been established for vehicle safety and emissions. Moreover, fuel-efficient vehicles have been developed and are now being used by many people.

The modern automobile is a complex technical system. It has numerous subsystems, each with specific design functions. These have evolved from breakthroughs in existing technology, such as electronic computers and high-strength plastics, or from emerging technologies, such as fuel cells, hybrid electric vehicles and advanced alloys of steel and nonferrous metals.

Historically, the automobile was largely designed and manufactured by large companies. The first production line for mass-producing affordable cars was introduced by Ransom Eli Olds at his company’s plant in 1902, followed by Henry Ford’s moving assembly lines in the 1910s. These innovations allowed the mass production of a wide variety of models. These included sedans, station wagons, and a few pickup trucks. Other important automotive developments include electric ignition and the electrical self-starter (designed by Charles Kettering for Oldsmobile in 1910-1911), independent suspension, four-wheel brakes, and the Wankel rotary engine (developed by Mazda).

Automobile accidents have long been a concern. The first recorded fatal automobile accident took place in 1771, when Joseph Cugnot crashed his steam-powered “Fardier” into a wall in Parsonstown, Ireland.

The era of the annually restyled road cruiser ended with the imposition of government standards for automobile safety and environmental emissions, as well as rising gasoline prices during the oil crises of 1973 and 1979. The industry has also been shaken by the emergence of new manufacturers in Europe and Japan, which specialize in building functionally designed small cars that are efficient on fuel. As a result, the automobile is now a global industry. The world’s leading manufacturers produce more than sixty million units a year. These are sold all over the world, with the largest number being in the United States. This number is expected to rise, as the world’s demand for automobiles continues to grow. It is estimated that the global market for automobiles will double in size over the next fifteen years.