An automobile, also known as a car or motorcar, is a self-propelled passenger vehicle with four wheels. Most are powered by an internal combustion engine that burns a fuel, typically gasoline (petrol). The modern automobile consists of many systems with specific design functions. A chassis and body, which are analogous to the skeletal structure of the human body, provide support and protection for all the mechanical components. The automobile body must meet government standards of size, safety, and aerodynamics (how it moves through airflow).
Karl Benz, a German engineer, invented the automobile around 1885. He was followed by businessman Henry Ford, who revolutionized automotive manufacturing with the use of assembly lines, which allowed him to produce cars quickly and at a lower cost. This made it possible for middle-class families to own an automobile.
Automobiles have greatly changed societies and lifestyles in the developed world. They allow people to travel long distances and quickly access jobs, housing, and other services. They have given rise to new leisure activities such as shopping, entertainment, and restaurants. And they have created problems such as traffic congestion, pollution from fuel burning, and the need for road construction and parking space.
All the parts of an automobile are connected to the engine, which generates power to turn the wheels and electricity for lights and other systems. The engine needs an electric starter to push it and a battery to store energy for the engine to burn. The chassis, which supports the engine and wheels, is often made of steel. The body of the car, which protects passengers and their belongings, is often made of plastic or fiberglass.