Automobiles are vehicles designed for transportation on public roadways. They are usually powered by internal-combustion engines (using volatile inflammable fuel), although steam and electric motors have also been used. Modern automobiles are complex technical systems, with thousands of subsystems that each perform specific design functions.

The automobile revolutionized the way people live, work, and play. It allows people to travel long distances without having to depend on others for rides, which can open up a lot of possibilities for employment and socialization. It has allowed people to relocate for work or family reasons with greater ease than ever before. It has also opened up the possibility of multi-national corporations allowing employees to work from home.

While the automobile may seem to have a relatively short history, the technological and scientific building blocks for it date back several hundred years. In the late 1600s Dutch scientist Christiaan Huygens invented a type of internal engine sparked by gunpowder. Other scientists were able to develop a practical and reliable version by the end of the 1800s.

Karl Benz, a German engineer, developed the first true automobile in 1886. His Benz Patent-Motorwagen ran on gasoline, which burned much more efficiently than the kerosene used in early cars. Many manufacturers produced cars during this period using a variety of fuel sources such as electricity, coal, and steam. The main disadvantage of these early automobiles was that they were very heavy and required a lot of time to get going since the vehicle needed to be heated up before it could move.

By the 1900s, Henry Ford introduced the assembly line to automobile production which made it much easier to produce large numbers of cars at a reasonable cost. Ford and his competitors established the dominant American automobile companies by the 1920s, though they soon grew to be global enterprises. After World War II (1939-43) automakers developed many features to make the automobile more comfortable and easy to operate. These included power steering, air conditioning, and a host of safety innovations.

The automobile industry is highly competitive, and car manufacturers constantly try to improve their products in order to keep up with consumer demands and market trends. Many factors contribute to these changes, including consumer demand for SUVs (Sport Utility Vehicles) and other body styles, fuel economy, and advances in automotive technology. Often the development of a new automobile depends on a race between engineers and marketing people. The marketing team tries to find out which features consumers want most, while the engineers focus on improving efficiency and safety. Despite these improvements, automobiles are still not perfect and accidents occur regularly. Some of these accidents are fatal. For this reason, there are some laws governing automobiles including the sale and transfer of them, repair standards, warranties, and insurance coverage. Automobiles also give rise to legal issues involving contracts, property law, and consumer protection. These issues are covered by a wide range of laws, depending on the jurisdiction.