Automobiles (or cars) are motor vehicles for the transport of people over a road. They are powered by gasoline, diesel fuel, gaseous hydrogen, balloon fuel or electricity. Automobiles come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes and styles. They include passenger cars, sports cars, trucks and vans, and even emergency vehicles such as police cars or fire engines.

The automobile was invented in the late 1800s, primarily in Germany and France by engineers such as Nikolaus Otto, Gottlieb Daimler, and Karl Benz. By the 1920s, American firms came to dominate the industry, and Henry Ford innovated mass production techniques in his Highland Park factory in Michigan that became standard throughout the world. These enabled him to offer a runabout car, the Model T, for less than the average annual wage. This created a buyer’s market for motor transportation and gave birth to the mass personal “automobility” of the twentieth century.

Since then, the automotive industry has grown rapidly, and consumers have been offered hundreds of options. The automobile has also contributed to the development of many new technologies and to the growth of many other industries. It has had significant social impacts as well. For example, automobiles are responsible for millions of deaths per year in traffic accidents. And their environmental impact is immense, especially in terms of air pollution and the consumption of dwindling oil supplies.

Today, some young people are opting not to purchase a vehicle or to drive only when necessary. Others are taking public transit if possible or sharing cars with friends. For those who want to continue to drive, there are new hybrid, electric and autonomous cars on the horizon.