An automobile is a four-wheeled vehicle designed for passenger transportation and propelled by an internal combustion engine powered most often by gasoline, a liquid petroleum product. The modern automobile is a complex technical system with numerous subsystems with specific design functions.
Automobiles are a crucial element in the economic and social fabric of industrialized societies. They have transformed the way people live, work and play by allowing them to travel long distances quickly and easily. They have restructured the economy around the rapid movement of goods and services, enabling many industries to specialize in a few, mass-produced products.
The automobile has changed our culture in many ways as well. People now have more free time to spend on other activities and they can visit places they could not before, due to the convenience of car travel. Automobiles have also helped build a middle class in the United States and allowed more families to afford their own vehicles. The automotive industry is a major source of employment, providing jobs for thousands of people. It is one of the largest users of steel, aluminum, rubber and other materials. It is also a leading purchaser of energy, and is a significant drain on world oil resources.
It is estimated that more than 73 million cars were manufactured worldwide in 2017. Some of the most popular types of automobiles are sedans, sports cars and trucks. Sedans are typically compact, with two doors and a trunk. Sports cars are typically fast, with powerful engines and sharp handling. Trucks are built for hauling cargo and can have either pickup or SUV styling. The Honda Ridgeline, for example, is a truck that looks like a sports car and offers impressive fuel efficiency.
Automobiles have revolutionized the way we live by allowing us to commute to work or school and then visit friends and family, go shopping, take vacations and run errands. They have become a necessary tool in the workplace, providing access to important tools and equipment. In urban areas, traffic jams and narrow streets can make driving inconvenient or even dangerous, making public transit a better option for some people. However, in rural areas and other less-populated communities, it may be more economical and convenient to own a car than rely on public transportation.
The history of the automobile began in Germany and France toward the end of the nineteenth century, with inventors such as Karl Benz developing prototypes. But it was Henry Ford who introduced mass production techniques that turned the automobile into an affordable mode of transportation for the masses. The modern American automobile industry was founded on these innovations, which became standard production practices in other countries as well. By the 1920s, the Ford, General Motors and Chrysler companies were booming. However, engineering in the postwar era was subordinated to questionable aesthetics and nonfunctional styling, and quality suffered, with American-made automobiles being delivered to retail buyers with an average of twenty-four defects per unit, many of them safety-related. Moreover, higher unit profits on gas-guzzling road cruisers came at the high social cost of increased air pollution and a drain on dwindling world oil reserves.