Automobiles are four-wheeled vehicles for carrying people and goods. They are powered by engines that use gas, diesel or electric power to make them move. They are much bigger than a bicycle but smaller than a truck/lorry or bus. They are a common form of transportation and a major convenience for people. However, automobiles can be dangerous to ride in and are often a source of pollution. Automobiles also need large amounts of natural resources such as oil to be made and moved from place to place.

The first modern automobile was invented by Karl Benz in 1886, and production began a year later. Cars quickly became popular in the United States and replaced horse-drawn carriages. Several industries developed to produce parts and fuel for cars, and new jobs were created. Services such as gasoline stations and convenience stores also developed to serve the needs of automobile users.

A car’s main parts are its engine, transmission, chassis, bodywork and electrical equipment. The engine can be powered by gasoline, diesel, balloon gas (solar energy), electric power or a gas turbine. The gasoline and diesel fuels that are most used in cars today come from the fossil fuels of petroleum and natural gas. These gases must be extracted from the earth and processed to become usable.

Other sources of power for automobiles are wind, solar energy, electricity and water. These alternatives usually require more maintenance and are not as convenient as gasoline or diesel fuels. Moreover, they can be more expensive.

Some of the advantages of automobiles are that they allow people to travel more quickly than walking or riding in a bus or train. They can also be more comfortable than traveling in a plane or ship. Another advantage is that people can choose where they want to go and when, instead of being limited to public transportation schedules.

An automobile’s disadvantages are that it can be noisy, and the engines may emit odors or toxic fumes. Automobiles also can be damaged in accidents or by collisions with other vehicles or pedestrians. Traffic congestion can delay drivers, and air pollution from the burning of gasoline in automobiles can contribute to climate change.

The design of an automobile should focus on cost-effective manufacturing and safety. It should have a good road handling ability and unobstructed visibility through well-placed windows. It should also be attractive and easy to operate. The controls should be logically grouped and easily accessible. Some manufacturers replace physical knobs and switches with secondary electronic controls, such as BMW’s iDrive and Ford’s MyFord Touch. The brakes should be easy to operate, and the vehicle should have dedicated fuses and circuit breakers to protect against electrical overload. A car’s braking system can also be improved by using regenerative braking, which turns the energy of motion back into electricity to recharge the battery. This reduces wear on the brakes and improves efficiency. Lastly, the car should be easy to repair and maintain, so that the owner can keep it running safely for as long as possible.