Automobiles are vehicles that use an engine to move from one place to another, and can carry passengers. They are usually powered by petroleum or other liquid fuels, but can also be powered by electricity or even a variety of alternative fuels. They are the primary mode of transportation for many individuals and businesses, and help people get to work and run errands more quickly than they would be able to if they relied on public transportation or had to ask friends and family for rides.

The automobile revolutionized America in the 20th century, becoming a central force in the rise of a consumer goods-oriented society and creating new industries and jobs. It also accelerated the development of suburbia, which fueled the American predilection for living in single-family houses with green lawns. The automobile also became the chief consumer of other industrial products, such as steel and petroleum, causing those industries to advance at an unprecedented pace.

Today, there are over 1.4 billion automobiles in operation worldwide. The latest models feature advanced technical systems that have developed through breakthroughs in electronic computers, high-strength plastics, and innovative alloys of steel and nonferrous metals. These advances are driven in part by environmental, safety and fuel efficiency regulations, but they also stem from consumer demand for luxury and convenience features. Cars are also undergoing a major technological change, as they shift away from traditional internal combustion engines and move toward hybrid, electric, and autonomous models.

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