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December 10, 2012


There are now over one billion automobiles on the road worldwide. An explosion in the auto markets in China and India ensures that number will increase, with China supplanting the United States as the world's largest car market. It's fair to say humanity has a love affair with the car, but it's a love-hate relationship. Cars are at once convenience, art, and menace. People write songs about their vehicles, put them in museums, race them, and wrap their identities up in them. About 15% of carbon dioxide emissions from the burning of fossil fuels comes from cars. Traffic fatality estimates vary from half a million per year to more than double that. Gathered here are images of the automobile in many forms, and our relationship to and dependence on our cars. This is the second in an occasional Big Picture series on transportation, following Pedal power earlier this year. -- Lane Turner (40 photos total)

Antti Rahko stands next to his self-made "Finnjet" during preparations for the Essen Motor Show in Essen, Germany on November 22, 2012. The car rolls on eight wheels, offers ten seats, weighs 3.4 tons and is worth about one million US dollars. (Marius Becker/AFP/Getty Images)

Abdul Samad, 13, carries a part of a used car engine inside an automobile workshop in Mumbai on July 10, 2012. (Danish Siddiqui/Reuters) #

Traffic plods through heavy smog in Beijing on November 21, 2012. China will start assessing the "social risk" of major projects, its environmental protection minister said, after anti-pollution protests forced a series of industrial ventures to be cancelled. (Wang Zhao/AFP/Getty Images) #

Robotic arms work on vehicles as they move along the production line at the Ford India Pvt. Maraimalai Nagar factory in Chengalpattu, India on April 17, 2012. (Kuni Takahashi/Bloomberg) #

Employees at the Fiat SpA and Guangzhou Automobile Group Co. factory work on vehicles in Changsha, China on June 28, 2012. Fiat, with two failed partnerships in China, returned to manufacturing cars in the world's largest vehicle market. (Nelson Ching/Bloomberg) #

An employee walks past new cars at Ford's joint venture in Chongqing, China on October 12, 2010. (Stringer/Reuters) #

A ship transporting cars sails along the river Weser beside a shipping terminal in the harbor of Bremerhaven, Germany on October 8, 2012. Vehicles from Europe are exported through Bremerhaven, which is one of the biggest automobile ports in the world. (Fabian Bimmer/Reuters) #

Cars are displayed during the Los Angeles auto show on November 29, 2012 in Los Angeles. (Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images) #

A car is reflected on the wall during the preparations for the Moscow International Automobile Salon on August 29, 2012. Over 100 companies exhibited. (Sergei Karpukhin/Reuters) #

Some 200 Volkswagen Beetles from Uruguay, Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Paraguay take part in the South American Meeting of Beetles on November 18, 2012 at Laguna del Sauce, Uruguay. (Miguel Rojo/AFP/Getty Images) #

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak (right) and Defence Minister Kim Kwan-jin review troops during a ceremony to mark the 64th Korea Armed Forces Day at the military headquarters in Gyeryong, on September 26, 2012. (/Jung Yeon-je/Reuters) #

An employee makes glass for an armored car in Ecatepec, Mexico on September 27, 2012. The demand for armored cars is increasing in Mexico according to the Mexican Association of Armored Cars. (Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP/GettyImages) #

Katie Becker, 17, smashes a windshield during a "car bash" ahead of a high school football game on August 24, 2012 in Logan, Kansas. Students at the small town school paint a junker with the names of football rivals before smashing it up ahead of the game. (John Moore/Getty Images) #

People look at the aftermath of a car bomb explosion in Sanaa, Yemen on September 11, 2012. Yemen's defense minister escaped the attack on his motorcade that killed at least 12 other people. (Mohamed al-Sayaghi/Reuters) #

Cars drive down a street in Havana on June 1, 2012. (Ty Wright/Bloomberg) #

Charlie Becker, 19, checks the engine on his restored 1973 Dodge Charger on August 24, 2012 in Logan, Kansas. (John Moore/Getty Images) #

A taxi driver takes an afternoon nap with his hand on the steering wheel of his Premier Padmini taxi in Mumbai on October 2, 2012. With a government order banning taxis over 25 years old, the number of Premier Padmini taxis has begun to dwindle. (Vivek Prakash/Reuters) #

Recovery agent Amanda Husted checks the interior of a car after a colleague 'repo man' repossessed the vehicle on October 11, 2012 in Oneida, New York. (John Moore/Getty Images) #

A policeman directs traffic in downtown Shanghai on December 5, 2012. While the opportunities are vast in China's estimated $50 billion auto insurance industry, there are roadblocks aplenty - from poor driving standards to a new generation of car owners unfamiliar with the concept of buying protection against accidents and repairs. In 2010, China reported 3.9 million road accidents that killed 65,225 people and injured 254,075. There were 30,797 fatal crashes in the United States in 2009, which had almost 2.5 times as many registered vehicles as China. (Carlos Barria/Reuters) #

Danica Patrick sits in her car in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway on September 28, 2012 in Dover, Delaware. (Sean Gardner/Getty Images for NASCAR) #

Dressed as a princess, Jennifer Knoepfel, is helped with her dress during the Saturday night stock car races, July 7, 2012. Jennifer dressed up in the long gown and tiara as part of her duties presenting the trophies to the winners of the night's competition. (Andy Clark/Reuters) #

Cars race through a steep turn during a race demonstration at the Offene Rennbahn cycling track in Zurich's Oerlikon suburb on July 24, 2012. (Arnd Wiegmann/Reuters) #

Youths compete with remote controlled toy cars around a track with models of iconic architecture in Singapore on September 23, 2012. (Ng Han Guan/Associated Press) #

Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas race during the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series Continental Tire 200 at Watkins Glen International on August 11, 2012 in Watkins Glen, New York. (Tom Pennington/Getty Images for NASCAR) #

Tony Stewart flips in the air after an incident with the field in the final lap of a NASCAR race at Talladega Superspeedway on October 7, 2012 in Talladega, Ala. (Chris Graythen/Getty Images for NASCAR) #

Will Power of Australia, bottom, goes under the car of Mike Conway of Britain during the Indianapolis 500 auto race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Ind. on May 27, 2012. (Peter Kirles/Reuters) #

People descend a hill in homemade cars during the XXIII Car Festival in Medellin, Antioquia department, Colombia, on October 7, 2012. (Raul ArboledaAFP/GettyImages) #

Team technicians for Lotus-Renault driver Kimi Raikkonen of Finland assemble a race car prior to Formula One's Indian Grand Prix 2012 at The Buddh International circuit in Greater Noida, on the outskirts of New Delhi, on October 25, 2012. (Prakash Singh/AFP/Getty Images) #

Cary Conrad checks the steering on a soapbox car before some practice runs for an upcoming soap box derby at an a downhill track in the Fells Reservation in Stoneham, Mass. on May 19, 2012. (John Tlumacki/Globe Staff) #

A boy sits in a motorized toy car in Sukhbataar Square on October 18, 2012 in Ulan Bator, Mongolia. (Paula Bronstein/Getty Images) #

A remote control Mini car collects the discus on Day 13 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at Olympic Stadium on August 9, 2012 in London. (Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images) #

Audience members queue to ride bumper cars before the Future Cinema outdoor screening of the 1978 film "Grease" in Barnes, southwest London September 7, 2012. London-based Future Cinema, which specialises in immersive events fusing film, theatre, music and dance, transformed Barnes Common park into the movie's fictional setting of Rydell High School. Over 9,000 participants, donning 1950s attire, were expected at three showings over the weekend. (Chris Helgren/Reuters) #

A carpenter presents his self-made wooden electric car at the 2012 China-Eurasia Expo in Urumqi, in China's Xinjiang autonomous region on September 5, 2012. The maker spent half a year and some 50,000 yuan ($7,880) completing it. The electric vehicle is able to travel 100 km to 130 km on a single charge and has a top speed of 50 km/h. (China Daily/Reuters) #

Jose Mauricio Pardo drives his bamboo vehicle through the streets of Bogota, Colombia on September 28, 2012. The vehicle, composed almost entirely of bamboo, was designed by Pardo, a Colombian plastic artist. (Fernando Vergara/Associated Press) #

Taxi driver Munther al Qasas drives his electric car in the streets of Gaza City on August 9, 2012. Qasas made the electric car over several months on the rooftop of his house as Gaza was hit by its worst fuel crisis in living memory. (Said Khatib/AFP/GettyImages) #

Vintage cars set to take part in the annual 'London to Brighton Veteran Car Run' arrive to go on show on Regent Street on Novermber 3, 2012 in London. The Royal Automobile Club's 60 mile drive from the capital to the south coast is the longest running motoring event in the world, and attracts entrants from across the globe. The event features over 300 cars spanning 125 years of motoring. (Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)#

The Venezuelan team USB Solar competes in the second stage of the Atacama Solar Challenge -- a solar car race in the Atacama Desert in northern Chile -- near San Pedro de Atacama on November 16, 2012. Fifteen teams from four countries are participating in the three-day 1300 km-race. (Martin Bernetti/AFP/Getty Images)#

The ornate horn on a 1911 Stanley Steamer glints in the sun at the annual Rockville, Md. Antique and Classic Car show on October 20, 2012. (Gary Cameron/Reuters)#

A crane lifts a car body at the Scholz scrap metal recycling plant in Espenhain, Germany on October 2, 2012. (Thomas Peter/Reuters)#

People wait in line to buy gasoline during a snowstorm on November 7, 2012 in Brooklyn, NY. The city was still experiencing long gas lines in the wake of Superstorm Sandy. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)#