An automobile is a four-wheeled vehicle designed primarily for passenger transportation and propelled by an internal combustion engine using a volatile fuel. Modern vehicles use sophisticated technical systems that combine multiple subsystems with specific design functions. The development of these systems has been driven by breakthroughs in electronic computers, high-strength plastics and new alloys of steel and nonferrous metals. The automobile is the most common form of land transportation and is used by billions of people worldwide.

The automobile was perfected in Germany and France toward the end of the nineteenth century by such pioneers as Gottlieb Daimler, Karl Benz and Emile Levassor. The 1901 Mercedes model was considered the first modern car in all essentials. The invention of the automobile dramatically changed society in many ways. People could travel farther and faster than ever before, and social barriers became less significant. The automobile also opened the door for women to work outside the home and be independent.

Automobiles were widely adopted in the United States where there was a much greater need for transportation than in Europe. Cheap raw materials and a tradition of American manufacturing allowed manufacturers to sell cars at a relatively low cost. The United States also lacked tariff barriers that encouraged trade over a large geographic area.

As a result, the automobile quickly came to dominate world transportation. By the 1920s, the automobile industry had become consolidated with the rise of the Big Three Automakers: Ford, General Motors and Chrysler. The rise of these companies reflected the need for large numbers of automobiles to accommodate the needs of a rapidly growing economy and a population. The need for automobiles spawned the development of highways, urban planning, and air pollution and safety legislation.

There are various types of automobiles that can be classified into different categories depending on their size and function. These include the sedan, coupe (british English), hatchback, minivan, station wagon, SUV, and van. Sedans are four-door vehicles that are typically seen as more luxurious than other automobiles. They have a rear window that slopes down, which gives them a distinctive look. The coupe is a two-door vehicle that is usually perceived as sportier than the sedan. A hatchback has a rear window that does not slope down and is viewed as more utilitarian than the sedan or coupe. Minivans are large box-shaped automobiles that carry passengers and cargo, and are often seen as family vehicles.

Having your own automobile gives you the freedom to go wherever you want without having to depend on other people or public transport, and to make appointments that cannot be missed. It can also help boost your credit score by proving that you have the financial capacity to make regular payments, which is a requirement if you plan on getting a loan for a house or other major purchase. However, a car is expensive to maintain and can be inconvenient to park, especially in crowded areas such as cities.