Automobiles are motor vehicles designed for the transportation of passengers, usually on roads. Often having four wheels, they are powered by internal combustion engines that use a fuel such as gasoline (petrol) and produce pollution. There are 590 million automobiles on the world’s roads, about one for every eleven people.

The car is an important mode of transportation, providing access to jobs and services. It has also contributed to a desire to live in suburban areas, where each family has its own house and lawn. The automobile has brought about new industries, including those that manufacture parts and supplies for cars, as well as services such as gas stations and convenience stores. It has also created problems, such as air pollution and the loss of valuable land for housing and agriculture.

Karl Benz is credited with inventing the automobile in 1885, though many inventors and engineers developed their own versions. His design used a small internal combustion engine to drive a vehicle. His first prototype had no seats, steering wheel or brakes. In the early 1900s, Henry Ford introduced the assembly line for automobile production, making them affordable to a wider range of buyers. The automobile has helped women get jobs and personal freedom, especially during the 1910s and 1920s when there was a push for women’s right to vote. Many women drove around with “votes for women” banners hanging from their cars.

In the United States, automobiles became more widely available after World War II. The American Big Three (Ford, General Motors and Chrysler) led the industry until they were surpassed by Japanese manufacturers in the 1960s.

By the 1990s, the automobile market was mature, with little new innovation in technology or design. Sales slowed and the market began to shift toward alternative-fuel vehicles, such as hybrid electric cars. In the early 2020s, electric-only vehicles began to enter the marketplace, challenging traditional automotive companies.

If you’re looking for an economical, reliable and comfortable automobile, consider a compact vehicle. These vehicles offer excellent fuel economy and plenty of passenger space for a comfortable ride. The Toyota Corolla is a top-rated model that scored high in J.D. Power’s 2023 Vehicle Dependability Study, while the Honda Civic is another solid option with a quiet interior and advanced technology. If you prefer a midsize SUV, check out the Mazda CX-5, which has great handling and features. The Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4 are other top choices. If you want to save some money, consider the Kia Forte, which offers a spacious cabin and a lot of tech features.