Automobiles are motor vehicles used for transporting passengers, cargo or freight. Modern automobiles are usually powered by an internal combustion engine, with the power transferred from this engine to the wheels through a transmission system. They are able to operate on roads and other surfaces, and can also be driven off-road on certain types of terrain. There are different kinds of cars, such as passenger (cars and buses), commercial, and special (fire, sanitary, mobile crane, autoclave or infantry fighting vehicles). The earliest automobiles were steam-powered, but the first gasoline-powered ones appeared in the 19th century. The automobile revolutionized American society by allowing people to move farther distances in less time, and it led to the development of streets and highways, new jobs and industries for manufacturing and service providers like gas stations, restaurants and hotels, and the end of rural isolation. Today, most Americans depend on automobiles for daily transportation.

It is disputed who invented the automobile, but the most important figure in its history was Henry Ford. He innovated mass production methods in the early 1900s, which allowed him to reduce the price of his Model T car to the point where it could be bought by middle-class families. The automobile made it possible for urban people to visit the countryside, and rural people to come to the city.

The modern automobile has a wide range of applications, from commuting to work to touring and camping. It is generally quicker than walking or riding a bike for longer trips, and can carry more than one person and a lot of luggage. It can reach places that are difficult for public transport vehicles to get to, and can go over rough or unpaved roads that would damage or strand a bicycle or bus. There are even specialized automobiles that can be used for off-road or military use, but these tend to cost more and consume more fuel than standard models.

Although the automobile has many benefits, it also causes significant environmental problems. Its production and operation produce substantial air pollution and greenhouse gases, mainly carbon dioxide, which is linked to global warming. Its use creates noise pollution and congestion. In addition, it is a significant contributor to water pollution and soil degradation. Some people are choosing to limit their automobile usage by using public transit if it is available, or buying hybrids or other low-polluting models.

The automobile has many positive effects on the economy, including stimulating growth in cities, and creating jobs for industries that make parts and manufacture cars. It also increases leisure activities, promoting tourism and related businesses like hotels, restaurants and gas stations. Nevertheless, most Generation Y’s are limiting their automobile usage by buying more fuel-efficient models or driving shorter distances. Some are even foregoing car ownership altogether, and instead opting to walk or ride a bicycle, carpool with friends or take public transportation if possible. This may be because they are concerned about the negative impact that the automobile has on their health, the environment and the climate change.