An automobile is a wheeled motor vehicle designed for passenger transportation and commonly propelled by an internal combustion engine using a volatile fuel. Modern automobiles are complex technical systems, and their design varies depending on their intended use. For example, off-road vehicles require durable, simple systems that are resistant to severe overloads and extreme operating conditions, while high-speed vehicles require optimized power and handling characteristics for safe operation on limited-access highways.

A modern automobile has thousands of individual component parts, which are assembled into a complete system that functions in various ways. These components are made from metals, plastics, rubber, and other materials. Some have evolved from breakthroughs in technology, such as electronic computers and high-strength plastics, while others are a result of new designs and safety requirements. The automobile has revolutionized society, and it is now the primary mode of transport for many people. It has also spawned whole industries, such as auto manufacturing and retailing.

Automobiles come in a wide range of shapes and sizes, from small city runabouts to large luxury sedans. They can be powered by gasoline, diesel, electrical, or some combination of the three. Some have two- or four-wheel drive, while others have all-wheel drive. They may be equipped with a transmission, steering, and brakes, as well as air conditioning, heating, and entertainment systems. Some have a trunk for carrying luggage and shopping bags, while others have cargo bays that can be used to carry equipment and tools.

The first automobiles were steam and electric vehicles, developed in the late 1700s and 1800s. By the early 1900s, Karl Benz had invented an internal-combustion engine and gas-powered car, and Ford had introduced mass production techniques, making the Model T available to the masses for less than half of the average annual wage. The Model T set the stage for the massive growth of automobile sales in America and around the world.

Having a personal automobile can save you time and money. By being able to get where you want, when you want, you don’t have to rely on public transport or be at the mercy of your friends and family. This can save you time on your commute to work and also on shopping trips. It can also save you time going to the movies or spending time with your loved ones.

There are special types of automobiles for different purposes like crane vehicles at construction sites, road rollers in the field, forklifts in warehouses and emergency automobiles which are used to rescue people after accidents. These automobiles can be found all over the world in cities and villages.

By the 1960s, engineering was subordinated to nonfunctional styling and quality deteriorated to the point that by 1970 American-made cars were being delivered to retail buyers with an average of twenty-four defects per unit. At the same time, the higher unit profits Detroit was making on its gas-guzzling road warriors caused environmental and economic concerns about pollution and depleting the world’s oil supply. This opened the market to foreign manufacturers of functionally designed, well-built, affordable, fuel-efficient automobiles.