An automobile is a motor vehicle designed to carry a driver and a small number of passengers. It is powered by an internal combustion engine that runs on a volatile fuel such as gasoline. There are currently around 1.4 billion automobiles in operation worldwide. This figure includes both passenger cars and commercial vehicles such as vans, trucks, and buses.

The automobile has been a key force in twentieth-century industrial society. It has transformed the way people live and work by enabling them to travel long distances, which opens up new opportunities and allows them to live where they want and still be able to reach their jobs. The automobile has also been a catalyst for growth in many ancillary industries. It has been a major user of steel and oil, and it has helped shape the economy by driving demand for consumer goods and thereby requiring the development of mass production techniques.

In the early 1900s, European car manufacturers held a lead over American producers because they produced higher quality and more sophisticated designs. In 1908 Henry Ford introduced the assembly line. This made it possible to produce millions of cars quickly by having workers do a single task at a time while car parts passed them on a conveyor belt. Ford’s Model T was so popular that it outsold all other competing models combined. Ford’s production line methods became the standard for all other automakers and the industry rapidly grew into a large business. By the 1920s the automobile had become one of America’s leading exports and it had a major influence on transforming our country into a consumer-oriented society.

As the automobile grew in popularity, it became increasingly common to add new features that made driving safer and more comfortable. The first speedometers were added to automobiles in the 1890s and the first seatbelts came in the 1940s. After World War II automobile makers began to offer air conditioning and power steering. Today, automobiles are more efficient than ever and many come with features such as cruise control and heated seats.

In the past automobiles used to use a lot of fuel but that changed when oil-producing countries started to raise prices for their oil and when the government established standards for safety, pollution, and energy consumption. Now there are fewer big cars on the road and smaller, more efficient ones have gained in popularity. Many people are also switching to electric vehicles that run on batteries instead of gasoline. These are becoming more and more common as the environment becomes more and more important to most people. It is hoped that these cars will help reduce the dependence on foreign oil. It is also hoped that they will help to ease traffic jams and make it easier for people to get where they need to go on a daily basis. This is especially true in cities and towns where congestion can be severe.