Automobiles are motor vehicles that are designed to carry passengers and small amounts of cargo. They are typically distinguished from trucks (or lorries, in British English) which are used for the transport of cargo, and buses, which are large public conveyances designed to carry many passengers and also sometimes a small amount of cargo.

The automobile revolutionized twentieth-century life. It became the backbone of a new consumer goods-oriented society, providing one out of six jobs and becoming a major customer for steel, petroleum, and other industrial products. It was the catalyst for the development of ancillary industries, such as service stations, motels, and highway construction. It ended rural isolation and brought urban amenities, including medical care and education, to remote areas. It spurred participation in outdoor recreation and promoted tourism-related industries, such as roadside restaurants and lodgings. It created a huge demand for gasoline and oil, thus driving the development of the petroleum industry, and it stimulated the growth of transportation-related services such as airlines and shipping companies.

Early automobiles were powered by steam, electric power, or gas. The first self-propelled vehicle was built by Nicolas Joseph Cugnot of France in 1769, a three-wheeled, steam-driven carriage that traveled at a slow pace and had to be pulled by horses. Other manufacturers produced steam-driven cars in the late 1890s and early 1900s, but they were too heavy to be competitive with horse-drawn carriages. Battery-powered electric cars could travel at higher speeds than steam-driven vehicles but they required a long time to reach top speed, and the batteries had to be recharged often.

By the late 1920s gasoline-powered automobiles had replaced steam and electric cars on most streets and byways of Europe and the United States. The invention of the Ford Model T in 1908 enabled mass production of automobiles and made them affordable for middle-class families.

As a result, car ownership increased rapidly. Among the most important factors that contributed to this increase was the advent of inexpensive raw materials and the lack of tariff barriers, which allowed American producers to make use of cheaper imports and sell their cars for less than European automobile makers did.

In addition, the assembly techniques pioneered by U.S. automaker Henry Ford enabled the production of a car for $575 in 1912, well below the average annual wage. This greatly lowered the price of automobiles and opened up mass personal “automobility.”

Today, most of the world’s top automotive firms are headquartered in the United States. These include Honda, Toyota, GM, and other large domestic manufacturers, as well as multinationals such as Nissan, Renault, and Volkswagen. To stay ahead of the competition, automotive firms constantly seek out technological improvements to improve the performance and safety of their vehicles, reducing operating costs, and increasing fuel economy. They also strive to design vehicles with attractive shapes and colors, and they aim to provide clear visibility for drivers. Those interested in pursuing a career in the field of automobiles can get enrolled in the SSC JE Mechanical coaching to enhance their skills and prepare for the examinations.