Automobiles are wheeled motor vehicles for carrying passengers that are powered by an internal combustion engine fueled most often by gasoline, a liquid petroleum fuel. They have four wheels, a driver’s seat and seating for one to seven people. They are considered a staple of modern technology and form the backbone of one of the world’s largest industries.

People have been experimenting with automobiles since the 1880s, when Karl Benz patented his first model of what would become the modern automobile. By the 1920s, automobiles had become cheaper enough for most families to afford them. This revolutionized American society, allowing people to travel more easily and see new places.

Automakers have developed many different models of automobiles to suit different tastes and purposes. Some cars are designed for specific types of road surfaces and conditions, while others are built primarily for passenger comfort and performance. Some of the most popular models of automobiles include minivans, sedans, sports cars and SUVs. There are even specialized cars for uses like hauling cargo, towing boats or serving as ambulances.

When choosing an automobile, buyers should consider how they will use the car and what kind of fuel economy it will offer. If someone plans to drive a long distance, an automobile with a large fuel tank and a powerful engine is best. If an individual plans to use the automobile mostly around town, a small car with a gas-efficient engine is typically the most economical choice.

The earliest automobiles were designed for wealthy individuals, but as production methods improved, more affordable models became available. Ransom Eli Olds introduced the concept of the assembly line in 1902, and Henry Ford expanded on it a few years later, lowering the cost of an automobile significantly. This enabled people to drive from their homes to work and to visit friends and family.

Today, there are more than 590 million automobiles worldwide, and the number is growing rapidly. While the automobile provides many benefits, it can also pose risks to drivers and pedestrians if they are not used carefully. Accidents involving automobiles can be very serious and lead to severe injuries. In addition, the environmental impact of automobiles is significant. They pollute the air and contribute to climate change, especially in urban areas where automobiles are most prevalent.

Consumer Reports reviews new automobiles each year to identify the best models in various categories. For example, the Subaru Forester, a small SUV that is shaped a bit like a sneaker, has won the top spot in the subcompact SUV category for nine straight years. The reason is that, unlike some other brands of automobiles, the Forester doesn’t get a complete makeover from year to year. Instead, the Forester continues to be based on the mechanical underpinnings — or platform, as some call it — of the Impreza small car, which has been around for a decade.

Time is a precious commodity in most people’s lives. Having an automobile allows people to save time by traveling quickly from point A to B and to spend more time doing the things they enjoy most.