Automobiles are vehicles that are powered by an engine and move on roads or other surfaces. They come in many different sizes, shapes and colors, and are divided into groups based on their fuel type or other criteria. They can be used for transport, racing or to haul loads.
Modern automobiles have had a profound influence on human civilization. They have provided freedom of movement and enabled new activities like leisure travel, shopping, and fast food. But they have also brought with them pollution and a dependence on dwindling oil reserves. They have also led to more specialized vehicles like cranes and fork-lifts, as well as changes in work and family life.
The history of the automobile is long and complicated. Karl Benz is usually credited with inventing the automobile around 1885, although earlier inventors had made steam and electric cars. Ford revolutionized the industry in the early 1900s by introducing mass production of his Model T car. This made it affordable for middle class families to own a car. It also caused people to move from rural areas to urban centers and created many new jobs.
By the mid-1960s, though, engineering was subordinated to nonfunctional styling and high unit profits, while safety, efficiency, and quality deteriorated. In the end, the era of the annually restyled road cruiser ended with the imposition of federal standards for safety and exhaust emissions, rising gasoline prices, and the penetration of Japanese small cars that were functionally designed and economical to operate.