Automobiles are four-wheeled transportation vehicles that can be powered by gasoline, diesel, kerosene or other fuel. The modern automobile is an elaborate technological system with many subsystems that have specific design functions. They include a chassis, body, engine, transmission and electrical equipment. They are designed to carry a driver and a limited number of passengers, as well as cargo.

The first automobiles used a steam engine or a horse and carriage, but the inventor Karl Benz developed an internal combustion engine that allowed a car to travel faster than horses. His Patent-Motorwagen was first sold in 1888. Other manufacturers soon followed.

During the early twentieth century, demand for automobiles increased in Europe and America. American companies developed assembly line techniques to increase production and lower prices, which made them more affordable for middle-class consumers. In addition, the large land area of the United States, along with cheap raw materials and a skilled workforce encouraged automotive manufacturing.

The development of the internal combustion engine enabled cars to run on a variety of fossil fuels, including gasoline, diesel and kerosene. Automobiles also generate air pollution if too many are used in a small area, which can damage the environment and harm people’s health. In some places, automobiles are regulated by laws to reduce their emissions.

After World War II, market saturation and technological stagnation reduced auto production and sales. Concerns over nonfunctional design, safety and the draining of world oil reserves also raised questions about the use of automobiles. This opened the market to Japanese and German cars that offered better functionality, safety and efficiency than American models.