Self-driving cars have graced the big screen for decades, long before we had the technology readily available to give it a shot in real life. There have been a mass of popular movies and TV shows that have presented stunning autonomous vehicles as the hero car — and they make it look good!
OUR FAVORITE AUTONOMOUS CARS ON THE SILVER SCREEN
6. TOTAL RECALL’S “JOHNNY CAB”
1990’s Total Recall was a massive box office smash that depicted the illusionary intersection of reality, imagination, espionage, and science fiction — all with Arnold Schwarzenegger at the helm.
The now infamous Johnny Cab, is an automated taxi driver/car that ushers Arnold around for a considerable chunk of the film, and features a robotic head and torso in the form of a 1950’s style bus driver or chauffeur giving the illusion of having a driver.
Johnny Cab is sarcastic, conversational, vengeful, and completely in control of the car. We even get to see Schwarzenegger taking a nap in the back seat at one point. And that tune Johnny Cab is whistling? That’s the Norwegian national anthem.
5. THE FIFTH ELEMENT
The Fifth Element The Fifth Element took the entire concept of self-driving autonomous cars to a whole new level. The futuristic cars in the 1997 sci-fi flick weren’t the tarmac traversing cars of today — no, they were flying vehicle more reminiscent of space ships. They look great, too; there’s a little pinch of Blade Runner involved, a dash of the Jetson’s, and a zest of comic book flavour.
This one may be a little iffy to super fans, as Bruce Willis prefers to pilot the cars himself — like during the taxi chase — but they do feature an auto-pilot mode in the film, so we’re counting them.
4. TIMECOP’S VOICE-ACTIVATED CAR
Van Damme’s Timecop was released in 1994, and was set in 2004 — so the mass influx of modern, autonomous mechanization didn’t hit society as perceived, but the self-driving cars of Time Cop offered up their own unique futuristic features — like voice activation.
In a blend of Siri and Google’s self-driving vehicles of today, the 1994 visualization of modern cars was thankfully wrong and way off — the Timecop cars have to be some of the ugliest and silliest looking vehicles on our list.
The literal opposite of ugly and silly, Christine is a 1953 Plymouth Fury possessed by a spirit that seeks to even the score with anyone who does the car, or its owner, wrong.
While not the technological marvel we picture when we think autonomous vehicles, Christine is known for her ability to drive off by herself. She heads off to enact revenge on two bullies who vandalize her at the beginning of the film, triggering a gas station fire.
Twenty Furys were used in the film and only two survive to this day — many of the cars were sacrificed in the now infamous regeneration scene where a crumpled and mangled Christine reverts to mint condition. This type of feature on modern autonomous vehicles could open up a while new sales opportunity for vehicle manufacturers! The now cult classic film used hydraulics to complete the innovative scene.
Everyone’s favourite VW Beetle was the car of choice for Herbie, the star of the 1968 film, The Love Bug, starring a magical car that drove itself and was a serious contender in auto races with his “driver” Jim.
Herbie is unique on our list because beyond being able to drive itself, Herbie is a sentient being, meaning it appears to have very pronounced feelings, and possesses a compassion not found in our other examples.
In 2005, Lindsay Lohan became the latest star to ride Herbie to glory, with a few unique modern touches to the coveted and iconic aesthetic of the red-white-blue racing stripes and the door side “53” the vehicle has become known for.
Believe it or not, toy giant, Hasbro, and it’s Japanese toy brethren, Takara Tomy, took a cue from the 1968 debut of Herbie in The Love Bug. The Americanized Michael Bay rendition of Bumblebee that took the world by storm in 2007’s Transformers, was originally a VW Bug.
Bay and his team revamped the little bug’s character to reflect a more intimidating nature, choosing the blue-collar reimagined 2009/10 Chevrolet Camaro muscle car as the basis for Bumblebee’s appeal. In the film, Bumblebee is purchased by Sam Witwicky as a 1977 Camaro. It’s here that we first get a sense of Bumblebee’s autonomous nature, as the car sends an audible shockwave through the lot, smashing the glass of every car in the area to dissuade a shady car salesman from interfering with Sam leaving with the keys.
Later in the film, Bumblebee’s feelings are hurt when his looks are questioned. He kicks out the main characters and returns as a brand new 2010 Camaro, gleaming in yellow. Bumblebee became the silent hero and the face of the franchise, with his self-driving prowess and precision driving style. Bumblebee is easily the most popular and recognizable autonomous car in recent movie memory.
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Autonomous cars may be an inevitability of our modern society, but the self-driving vehicles are far from the realities we perceive in the aforementioned movies and TV shows.
The technology isn’t quite up to par to be considered reliable or viable for use on everyday roads, but the idea of having a car drive for us does garner mass appeal. It’s up to drivers and passengers to keep asking questions, demanding increased safety measures and assurances that everyone will get to their required destination safely and on time!