An automobile is a four-wheeled vehicle that can carry two to six passengers and a small amount of cargo. It is used for travel over long distances. Automobiles use gasoline, or an alternative fuel, to power an internal combustion engine that converts the chemical energy of the gas into mechanical energy that turns the wheels of the car. An automobile requires a lot of maintenance to keep it running properly. It also produces a great deal of pollution, and is a drain on dwindling world oil reserves.

The automobile has had a profound impact on society in the twentieth century, providing jobs, goods, and services. It has become the backbone of a consumer goods-oriented society and is one of the largest employers in the United States. It has revolutionized road transportation and is responsible for much of the growth of urban areas. It has also stimulated the development of dozens of ancillary industries, such as vulcanized rubber, steel, and petroleum products.

There are many different ways to power an automobile, but most of them use a gasoline-powered internal combustion engine. The engine uses an air-cooled, piston-type internal combustion engine that produces mechanical energy from the burning of gasoline. The engine drives the front or rear axles, depending on the design of the car. The wheels are connected to the engine through a transmission system that can be controlled to adjust the speed of the car’s movement.

Some cars are driven by electric motors, which generate the power from an electrical current. In the early 1800s, Nicolas Joseph Cugnot built a three-wheeled, steam-driven carriage with a boiler that projected in front. This was a heavy machine that moved very slowly. Later, manufacturers produced electric vehicles that had a 38 percent share of the market in 1900, but they were expensive to operate and needed recharging.

In 1913 Henry Ford introduced his Model T, a cheap and reliable vehicle that brought the automobile to the masses. He was able to make and sell millions of these cars because he employed the new assembly-line technique, which uses workers who stay in one place and do only one job as parts pass by on a conveyor belt. Ford’s company became a national and international powerhouse, and the car became a symbol of middle class America.

Today the automobile is used for many different purposes. People can go shopping in the city, visit friends in the suburbs, or take a trip to the country. An automobile can even be used to commute to work or school. It is convenient for families with children because it can accommodate more passengers than a bicycle or a motorcycle. It is also a means of entertainment and recreation, as people can travel to movies and restaurants in their cars. The automobile has made possible the expansion of leisure activities and the development of new services, such as motels, hotels, amusement parks, and restaurants. However, it has also led to social problems such as traffic congestion and the pollution caused by automobiles.