Automobiles are a form of wheeled transport that have a motor to make them move. The motor uses fuel to create power which is then transferred through gears to the wheels. Automobiles can have one to eight seats and are mainly used for passenger transport. There are currently more than 1.2 billion automobiles in operation worldwide. The majority of them are gasoline-powered, but there are also diesel, electricity, hydrogen fuel cell, and gas turbine vehicles.

An automobile has many advantages over walking or riding a bicycle for long distances. It can carry more people and luggage, and is much faster than public transport such as buses or trains. It can also be driven off road, where other forms of transport cannot go. Automobiles burn fossil fuels which produce greenhouse gases, and this can be a problem if they are not used efficiently.

The automobile revolutionized transportation and shaped many aspects of everyday life in the United States and around the world. It brought urban amenities such as schools, hospitals and jobs to rural America. It fueled the growth of cities, and created new industries such as auto manufacturing and road construction. It also led to changes in agriculture, as families left the farm to go to work and to shop. The automobile also changed personal life, allowing women to become more involved in society and to vote, as well as providing a means of getting to work for those who did not have a job.

Until the mid-19th century, automobiles were little more than horseless carriages with engines. They were expensive, unreliable and often dangerous. The invention of the Model T by Ransom Olds, and the development of the assembly line by Ford in the early twentieth century allowed mass production and reduced prices, making cars affordable to middle-class Americans. This opened the door for more efficient designs and for cars to be used for recreation as well as transportation.

Today’s modern automobile is highly automated, with electronic engine management and sensors to keep the vehicle on track. Its safety features include airbags, crumple zones and seat belts. Many are also equipped with GPS, which can help the driver navigate unfamiliar routes or avoid traffic. Some have a head-up display, which shows information like speed and navigation on the dashboard.

The automotive industry has become very competitive. The manufacturers strive to differentiate their products through design, technology and features. The era of the annually restyled “road cruiser” ended with the imposition of federal standards for safety, emissions and energy consumption; escalating gasoline prices following the oil shocks of 1973 and 1979; and competition from Japanese manufacturers of functionally designed, economical cars. Several manufacturers, including Toyota, Honda, Nissan and Suzuki, began by producing non-automobile products before WWII, but switched to car production after the war. As a result, they have been able to dominate the global market. The most important factor in their success has been their ability to meet the consumer’s needs and preferences, which are constantly changing and evolving.