Automobiles are four-wheeled vehicles designed primarily for passenger transportation and propelled by internal combustion engines using a volatile fuel. The modern automobile is a complex technical system with subsystems that have specific design functions. Its development was influenced by the rise of industry in the late 19th century, the economic stagnation that followed in the 1970s, and new regulations on safety, emissions, energy consumption, and engine capacity. It has also been shaped by societal self-reflection and changes in the way people live.

Automobility has had an enormous impact on society. It enabled people to travel farther distances and to access places that were previously inaccessible. It brought urban amenities—including better medical care, schools, and roads—to rural America. It stimulated participation in outdoor recreation and helped develop tourism-related industries, such as restaurants and motels. It also accelerated the development of infrastructure, including airports and interstate highways. It brought suburbanization and a new kind of family life, with women taking on jobs that had traditionally been the domain of men, and families spending more time together.

The modern car has become the emblem of freedom and the promise of progress. Its development has been linked to a growing sense of personal independence and the growth of American culture. It has been a catalyst for social change, such as the push to extend voting rights to women in the 1910s and 1920s. It has also made possible new forms of entertainment, such as radio and movies.

However, the car is a source of numerous negative impacts and problems for society. The main negatives are related to pollution and the consumption of fossil fuels. The emissions produced by automobiles contribute to air pollution in cities and cause smog. The use of fossil fuels also causes climate change and the depletion of the world’s oil supplies. It is estimated that there are about 1.4 billion cars in operation worldwide.

The automotive industry has evolved significantly since its inception in the late 1800s. The first cars were powered by steam, and the invention of the internal combustion engine gave birth to the automobile. This development spawned a number of other innovations, such as the use of aluminum, steel and other metals, standardized parts, improved production techniques, and advanced technology, such as electrical devices.