Automobiles are motor vehicles intended for use on land and able to transport passengers and goods. A modern automobile has four wheels and an internal combustion engine fueled most commonly by gasoline (or a petroleum distillate). An alternative fuel or electric motor may be used for powering an automobile. Often known simply as cars, they are one of the most universal of modern technologies and an important component of world trade and economy.
The first automobiles appeared in the late 1800s, but it was American carmaker Henry Ford who revolutionized the industry with his introduction of an assembly line to speed production. In addition to a greatly increased capacity for manufacturing, the assembly line allowed Ford to sell his Model T runabout at a price affordable to middle-class Americans.
Ford’s success led to the rise of the “Big Three” automakers—Ford, General Motors and Chrysler—which dominated the market until the end of the twentieth century. The automotive industry has become a global enterprise, with a great many manufacturers worldwide.
There are more than 1.2 billion automobiles on the planet, and they are a vital part of the modern world. They move people and goods around, and they serve as a symbol of freedom. They offer people the ability to travel where and when they want and to pursue a wide range of hobbies, recreational activities, business opportunities and work assignments.
Despite the many benefits of automobiles, they also pose some significant risks. There are countless highway and city-street accidents, injuries and deaths each year. Some accidents are caused by driver-related factors; others are related to road conditions or vehicle failures. The safety features of the modern automobile are designed to minimize these hazards.
The automobile is also a major source of air pollution, especially in urban areas. The emissions from automobiles contribute to the formation of ozone and particulates in the atmosphere, which can cause lung disease, asthma and other respiratory problems. The automobile has also been linked to other environmental issues, including soil erosion and water pollution.
For most people, the main benefit of owning an automobile is the independence that it provides. With a personal car, you can go wherever you want and whenever you like without having to schedule your trips ahead of time or rely on public transportation. You can take road trips with friends or family, and you can visit places that are not easily accessible to buses or trains. You can tinker with your automobile to make it more efficient and customize it to suit your tastes. You can also use your car to carry shopping or other items for sale.