Automobiles, also known as motorcars or cars, are four-wheeled vehicles designed primarily for passenger transportation and commonly powered by an internal combustion engine burning volatile fuel. Modern automobiles are complex technical systems containing many subsystems with specific design functions.

The science and technology that built the automobile date back several hundred years. In the late 1600s, Dutch scientist Christiaan Huygens invented a type of internal combustion engine fueled by gunpowder. By the end of the 19th century, manufacturers had created a variety of automobiles based on that technology.

In the United States, new car firms found a willing seller’s market for a relatively expensive consumer goods item. Cheap raw materials, a long tradition of manufacturing, and the absence of tariff barriers encouraged the expansion of auto production across a large geographic area. The United States also had a much larger population and more equitable income distribution than the nations of Europe, creating a great demand for automotive transportation.

By 1900, steam, electric and gasoline-powered automobiles competed for decades, but the gasoline internal combustion engine emerged as dominant in the 1910s. American carmaker Henry Ford innovated the assembly line, lowering the price of his Model T so that even middle-class Americans could afford to own one.

The automobile brought radical changes to industry and technology, as well as to daily life. New jobs and industries developed to supply the demand for automobile parts, fuel and services like gas stations. In the United States, automobiles opened up new frontiers for personal freedom and expanded the nation’s geographical boundaries.

Today, modern life seems inconceivable or at least highly inconvenient without a private automobile. More than three trillion miles (five trillion kilometres) are traveled by automobiles each year in the United States alone.

While the automobile has brought many benefits, it has not been without its problems. Engineering has sometimes been subordinated to the questionable aesthetics of nonfunctional styling at the expense of safety and economy, while quality has declined rapidly. And the higher unit profits that Detroit has made on gas-guzzling “road cruisers” have come with a social cost of increasing air pollution and a drain on dwindling world oil reserves.

The future of the automobile lies with alternative fuels, hybrid and electrical vehicles and autonomous cars as they replace gasoline-powered engines. These alternatives are likely to reduce the need for scarce fossil fuels, lower carbon emissions and increase energy efficiency. But the automobile remains an essential part of society, and the safety of children is a paramount concern. Parents can keep an eye on their children while in the car and ensure that they are safe at all times. For this reason, it is important to choose the right safety features for your family’s automobile. The following are some tips on selecting child safety seats for your vehicle.