Automobiles are vehicles designed to carry passengers on land, having four wheels and powered by an internal combustion engine fueled most often by gasoline, a liquid petroleum product. They are usually built for the transport of people rather than goods and are classified by their seating capacity from one to seven. They are generally regarded as a luxury and many countries have strict laws regarding their manufacture and use.

The automobile revolutionized the 20th century, altering the way that people work, shop, play and live. It was perhaps the most influential invention of this century, allowing people to escape from their daily routines and explore new places. It also reshaped the economy by stimulating the growth of transportation-related industries, including service stations, motels and roadside restaurants. It paved the way for suburbanization and increased urbanization, as people moved away from rural farms to suburbs where they could buy their necessities in shops. The automobile also reshaped cities by making it possible to build high-density residential and commercial areas in the same area.

It is difficult to imagine modern life without an automobile. There are many advantages to owning a car, including the fact that it is safer than public transportation and allows you to travel more quickly and easily. It also provides more comfort than other forms of transportation. Additionally, the freedom of movement provided by automobiles encourages recreational activity and enables families to spend more time together.

Although automobile technology existed in the 19th century, it took Henry Ford to make the vehicle affordable to the general population. He innovated the assembly line and established Ford Motor Company to market his Model T runabout. It cost $575 in 1912, less than the average annual wage at that time.

From the 1920s onward, nearly all cars were mass-produced, and marketing plans heavily influenced design. Alfred P. Sloan developed the idea of having different makes produced by a single firm, with each brand selling its products at a price range to appeal to consumers at different economic levels. This allowed customers to “move up” from one brand to another as their financial situation improved. To keep production costs low, he encouraged his manufacturers to share parts in order to reduce the number of components needed for each model.

After the Second World War, global production of automobiles soared. This was due in large part to the fact that automobiles were required for military use and the resulting need for high-quality, functionally designed cars. Consumer demand also grew for fuel-efficient, functionally designed small cars. In addition, European and Asian producers introduced models that incorporated advanced safety features and emissions controls. Today there are over a billion cars on the planet, with about 140 million in the United States. They consume a huge amount of the world’s oil and produce air pollution, noise and waste. In the future, technological advances will likely continue to improve fuel efficiency, safety, emissions and other factors.