Automobiles are motor vehicles that carry people and luggage from one place to another. People use them to travel long distances, especially for work and shopping. Many different types of cars exist, including sports and luxury models. The history of automobiles stretches back several hundred years.

The first automobiles were powered by steam, electricity or gasoline. They were large and very slow. In the late 19th century many inventors worked on improving them. Eventually Karl Benz of Germany created the first true automobile that was driven by an internal combustion engine. It was much faster and more convenient than earlier steam, electric or oil-powered vehicles.

Automobile production grew rapidly after the invention of the internal combustion engine. Hundreds of small companies began to make them. However, nearly all of them failed because it was too expensive to produce them on a large scale. Then Henry Ford began producing cars on an assembly line. He employed a team of workers who stayed at one job while parts were passed to them on a conveyor belt. This allowed him to offer cars that were state of the art but at a reasonable price.

In addition to making cars affordable for most families, the automobile revolutionized transportation in many ways. It stimulated participation in outdoor recreation and created tourism-related industries such as service stations, roadside restaurants and motels. It ended rural isolation and brought urban services, such as schools and medical care, to remote areas. It also encouraged more people to commute to cities for employment and higher education. Finally it contributed to a rapid growth of the world’s cities.

Modern automobiles are very complex machines. They have systems to power them, control and steer them, keep the passengers comfortable and protect them in case of collisions. All of these systems depend on energy that is supplied by the car engine. This energy might come from chemical energy stored in fuel such as gasoline, or electrical energy from a battery. It is measured in horsepower, which is the amount of energy the engine converts to mechanical motion.

There are many other systems that control a car such as brakes, tires and lights. There are also systems to warn drivers about problems such as low oil pressure or engine overheating. Modern cars have computers that can do many of the driving tasks automatically. Someday they may even drive themselves.

Although the automobile has greatly improved our lives, it does cause some problems. Millions of people die in car accidents every year. Automobiles pollute the air that we breathe and can make parking spaces scarce in busy city centers. In addition, they create traffic congestion when too many of them try to move at the same time. Many places have developed public transportation systems such as buses, passenger trains and trams that can take people more quickly and cheaply than automobiles. These systems can also help reduce the number of automobiles that must be kept on the roads.