Excel: [karate-chops Shiouji in the head] You dare even attempt to utter that line?!
This trope refers to the operation of vehicles — not just cars — on public highways, where the vehicle has no human operating it. Might require Advanced Phlebotinum to explain how they can get away with it. This trope would not include vehicles operated by video remote control unless it can operate without the person running the screen, nor would it usually include a vehicle running automated on a test track. The trope is more about driverless vehicles on public highways.
This may be the norm in a story set in the future, but it's just as likely to be played for horror. Imagine yourself being trapped in an automated vehicle that is trying to kill you, gets hacked by the bad guys, or just goes haywire. This fear will probably delay any attempts to implement it in Real Life.
Increasingly, this is Truth in Television – from simple "guided buses" using optical guidance to fully-robotic self-driving car prototypes. DARPA, Google, multiple major carmakers and even some leading universities have demonstrated functional autonomous cars as of 2013. Meanwhile, autopilots have existed for almost as long as airplanes have, but then there has always been far less chance of crashing into another vehicle while in the air due to there being much more empty space to navigate in.
- An ad for car insurance illustrated the unpredictability of advances in motoring technology with a rather cool shot of a large intersection with automated cars interweaving every which way.
- Used as a device in the Bubblegum Crisis episode Revenge Road where the Knight Sabres end up having to rescue a couple from a car that has incapacitated its driver and taken over.
- Also, the Knight Sabres' motoroids may qualify as they are capable of acting independently under their own AI.
- A Certain Magical Index: Academy City has self-driving electric buses, though they're only brought out on special occasions when the general public is permitted into the city. Most of the time they have ordinary manually-driven buses like most other places.
- Digimon Frontier (as well as the comics) had the digital world populated by machine digimon called Trailmon, who were sentient trains who carried their passengers to certain locations. Many of the trailmon had different looks, voices, and personalities, some even resembling mechanized animals, a kettle, and Frankenstein.
- The page quote comes from a story in the Excel♡Saga manga, where Excel accidentally gets trapped in Mad Scientist Dr. Shiouji's robotic car, which has a crush on its creator and wants to Murder what it thinks is the Hypotenuse.
- There's an anime called éX-Driver, where everyone uses automated cars — unfortunately, the AI in them occasionally goes nuts and the car goes out of control, at which point it's up to a squad of people with the instinctive ability to drive manual-control cars (called eX-Drivers) to chase them down and bring them to a halt with their driving skills and some fancy battools (specifically, a gadget that freezes up the target's onboard GPS and revolvers that fire some sticky-cement substance for blacking out the machine's sensors). It is very, very cool. And theme songs are by JAM Project!
- Inverted in Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045. When Togusa arrives in Los Angeles, he's bemused to find his rental car is 'manual only' instead of the semi-autonomous model he requested.
Computer: We only offer fully autonomous or manual vehicles, which the customer drives for themselves.
Togusa: Seriously? It's not like I hate to drive, but this seems like overkill.
- Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Vehicles in the Alliance capital planet of Heinessen appear to have this function, though drivers can easily switch to manual controls if they so wish.
- Rebuild World: Most cars are like this with it being a futuristic Cyberpunk setting. One of the more notable cases is that rental vehicles will auto-drive back to the dealership if they receive damage. Akira’s Virtual Sidekick Alpha always hacks the control units of vehicles he gets, so they can do some impressive Car Fu or a High-Speed Missile Dodge thanks to that. After New Meat Togami spends most of a battle clinging for dear life to Akira’s car due to this, Togami gets told to his bafflement by Shirakabe that auto pilot functions are simplistic and to drive his APC.
- Implied in Serial Experiments Lain. First, a speeding car almost hits Lain while standing in the middle of the road. Later, we hear a news report that says the guidance system somehow went haywire.
- Yakitori: Soldiers of Misfortune: When a Spider Tank starts firing on them as the Yakitori's armoured personnel carrier is driving down a highway, the Virtual Sidekick AI recommends "random evasion mode". The driver lets go of the controls, the AI gives them a regulation warning to fasten their seatbelts—and then everyone discovers why.
- Batgirl (2009): Stephanie's "Compact" motorcycle like vehicle can drive itself to a given destination.
- Disney Ducks Comic Universe: Donald Duck's Automauto is an experimental car with a single button on the dashboard. Naturally, Donald climbs in and presses the button, with disastrous results.
- Judge Dredd: Not a universal phenomenon, but they definitely exist in Mega-City One. Most cars can be manually driven (by either humans or androids), but tend to have a build-in feature that makes it drive to its destination autonomously.
- Robin (1993): Tim Drake's Redbird can drive itself to his location. He's never seen using this when the car is very far away so it's not seen how well it would deal with traffic, which is probably a good thing since it doesn't balk at driving on sidewalks and crashing through glass doors to get to him.
- Wacky Raceland, DC's post-apocalyptic reboot of the Wacky Races, has the racers' cars issued with A.I.s that are as surly and sour as their crews: all hard, grizzled veterans of the wasteland. In one issue they are parked outside a bush pub where their crews are drinking, and... indulging in less healthy chemical stimulations (willingly or not), while talking smack and dealing with wasteland critters. An eight-legged mutant lizard jumps up and urinates on the Mean Machine, which fries it alive.
Mean Machine: I've got to put up with a driver who gets me trashed in every single race and a biomechanical dog who wipes his wormy tailpipe on my seats on a daily basis. I sure as hell don't have to take crap from an eight-legged lizard.
Convert-O-Car: Technically, that was urine.
A drunk vomits on the Mean Machine
Mean Machine: Hey!
The other cars point and laugh
- Played with in Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker. The Batmobile is being chased through a glut of cars by a Kill Sat beam. Batman escapes, but untold numbers of cars are blown up. In the commentary, the creators joke that those are all robot cars, so nobody died. (Oh, and they were driving through the abandoned buildings district, too.)
- Cars is all about this, as it's about anthropomorphic automobiles. Adam Sessler from X-Play plays with this in his review of the game. Jay Ward, the creative director of Cars 3 believes that they're all robot cars that rebelled and wiped humanity out years ago.
- The "Glory Days" flashback sequence in The Incredibles briefly shows the Incredibile driving itself while Mr. Incredible changes into costume.
- Incredibles 2: The Incredibile makes it's return and has a remote that can summon it, also taking vocal commands from the Parr kids who can't really drive at this point.
- In Mars Express, which is set in the early 23th century, cars seem to be quite automated. A noticeable feature is that instead of airbags, in case of an accident they trap you in a sort of glue and you will need robots to extract you from your car.
- Who Framed Roger Rabbit: Benny the Cab: "No, I'll drive, I'm the cab!" After being injured by some Dip, he ends up driving a car.
- In The 6th Day, Adam Gibson and his friend have a chat to each other while their car drives itself. The car then asks if he wants to switch to manual mode as they near the heliport where they work, which Arnie does.
- Batman Film Series: Though the Batmobile in Batman (1989) and Batman Returns can be controlled via simple voice commands, when following those general instructions, it appears to have A.I. that can make specific navigational decisions without user input.
- Blade Runner 2049 opens with the protagonist asleep in his Flying Car as it flies over a future California changed by environmental disaster and massive factory farms. The car beeps to wake him up when it nears his destination.
- The Car is about a car that goes on a killing spree. Presumably, being possessed by a demon rather than just being driven by one brings it within this trope.
- In The Car: Road to Revenge, the spirit of a murdered man possesses his Cool Car and the car goes on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
- Domino from Deadpool 2 can let "Lady Luck take the wheel" and let a vehicle drive itself while she engages in combat.
- In Demolition Man, all 2030s vehicles have autopilots, though manual is still an option. It becomes a plot point when one of the cops is the only one that can drive a stick-shift (but not well) because she watches a lot of old movies. It also leads to a darkly funny Oh, Crap! moment when the police cruiser John is riding (at the moment) takes damage while pursuing Phoenix; the autopilot engages and refuses to disengage even though he can clearly see that it's over a dozen seconds away from crashing if it won't turn or brake. Luckily, the car's safety features are better than the autopilot.
- Weaponised in The Fate of the Furious when cyberterrorists hack the automated driving systems of hundreds of cars (whether or not they're parked or being driven by someone) and use them as blunt instruments to obliterate a diplomatic convoy in the middle of New York.
- In a future presented in Hot Tub Time Machine 2, all cars are automated smart cars, no one owns one anymore and they always seem to know when to pick someone up who needs a drive. They're generally respected because their onboard A.I.s get a little vengeful when mistreated.
- In Inspector Gadget (1999), the Gadgetmobile is an automated talking car.
- The Internship naturally has one show up since it is set at Google. However, in real life, the cars would have human drivers in them at all times.
- I, Robot has Spooner taking a snooze while his automated Audi drives itself. Later in the movie, after he's involved in an accident caused by a lorry load of robotic assassins, he's chewed out for driving manually at high speed, implying it's unusual (as part of his technophobic ways) that he drives manually. He was also going in excess of 100 mph. It's assumed that machines have quick enough reactions to avoid accidents. Humans aren't that quick.
- Happens in the opening of King of the Rocket Men, the 1949 Republic Film Serial that kicked off the Rocketman character. A scientist gets into his car only to find it's been modified by the shadowy Dr. Vulcan, who uses remote control radio waves to send it off a cliff. The same thing happens to the hero, who of course escapes. The scene is Gag Dubbed in J-Men Forever when the Lightning Bug causes numerous crashes by playing loud rock music.
- In Killdozer!, one of the construction crew's bulldozers becomes possessed by an alien life force after its blade strikes a meteorite. The possessed dozer then takes it upon itself to hunt and kill the workers.
- In the future presented in Logan, freight truck transportation is entirely automated. There isn't even a cabin at front. They have proximity sensors that beep everytime other cars get too close. However, they don't seem to be very good at detecting pedestrians.
- In The Love Bug, Herbie the VW Beetle goes exactly where he wants to, sometimes with helpless passengers trapped inside. There’s others in the subsequent installments - his Beetle army; made up of all the sentient ones in San Francisco; plus Giselle the Lancia Scorpion, Horace the Hate Bug, and the unnamed yellow and black Beetle.
- All the cars in Minority Report... although at least some models seem to have a "manual mode", they seem to do most of their travelling under computer control, apparently from some kind of central traffic control system. There is a chase scene in which the hero must escape from his automated car, which the police can easily track while it's in motion and have programmed to bring him to the nearest station.
- The automated 18-wheelers in Solar Crisis. They put a motorcycle on the road to try to stop one and the truck just runs right over it, but when one of them stands out in the path of the next one that comes along, this truck does stop. The truck has a fail-safe to prevent it from running over people.
- Terminator Salvation has the Moto-Terminators which are automatic motorcycles built by Skynet. They. Go. Fast.
- Timecop has futuristic-looking government cars with computers taking you to your destination (in the year 2004!). Van Damme's character demonstrates this by initializing the system and the computer asks for his destination. He replied, "home." This allows him to be surprised at the end of the film when the car takes him to a different home.
- Total Recall (1990): Johnny Cab an automated taxi driven by a crude robot upper body mounted on a swivel pedestal, programmed with simplistic mannerisms like whistling or comments like "Hell of a day, isn't it?" and "Hope you enjoyed the ride!" When Quaid wakes up in one after having his memory wiped at Rekall, it's not very helpful in explaining how he got there. Later when Quaid is fleeing the armed killers who are chasing him, a Johnny Cab doesn't understand Quaid's urgent appeal to "Drive!" because he doesn't provide a specific destination, so Quaid just rips the robot off its pedestal and drives using the joystick. Then after Quaid leaves the Johnny Cab it fuses out and nearly runs him down, crashing into a wall and exploding.
- Quite a few Transformers have car altmodes, so they qualify. This was played with in Transformers (2007), where Bumblebee conveniently "breaks down" at a Make-Out Point while carrying Sam and Michaela.
- Kathleen Ann Goonan provides the, if only briefly, driverless taxis of a post-2034 China in The Bones Of Time.
- Chakona Space: This type of vehicle is routinely seen in this 'Verse. One story discusses the advantages. One article discusses the development of these vehicles. The same article also discusses the in-universe fiction centered on these vehicles.
- The eponymous car in Christine by Stephen King has a rather nasty mind of her own...
- Automated cars and pneumatic transport tubes are used in Computer War, a 1967 sci-fi by Mack Reynolds. However when the protagonist is arrested by the Secret Police he's surprised to see someone is driving their vehicle, and realises it must be designed for use in rough terrain where you can't program a destination. He doesn't realise the implications however, until he's rescued by La Résistance and they inform him he was being taken out of the city to be shot.
- The Dream Master by Roger Zelazny takes this to an extreme, with people joyriding in the things by repeatedly changing the destination before they arrive, sometimes with the windows blacked out.
- In one case a seeing eye dog made use of one, when going to get help for his mistress from the titular character.
- The Auto M8s in Daemon. They perform incredible feats of maneuvering (for example, while traveling at 100+MPH, a group of them drives in a circle around a protected vehicle in an "interlocking slalom") and can target and kill humans handily.
- Galaxy Zack: All of the cars on Nebulon are self-driving. All the passenger has to do is tell the car their destination.
- In the Harry Potter universe, Mr. Weasley's enchanted Ford Anglia becomes one of these.
- In Harry Harrison's Homeworld, cars of the upper classes in most of the developed world can drive themselves provided they're on roads that have special wires under them. At the beginning of the novel, the protagonist is coming home from an inspection of a factory in another city. Upset, he gets drunk and then tries to drive. The car "smells" alcohol and refuses to allow him to drive manually until he's almost home. Later on, when he's trying to find out how the lower classes live in this 1984-esque world, he has to leave his car a few blocks away from the end of the "wire" territory, so as not to arouse Security's suspicions. When Security later decides to arrest him, they shut down his car by remote control — he forces the doors to open by lighting a fire inside, tripping the safety mechanisms.
- This technology exists in the Honorverse. When investigating a character's death by aircar collision, the examiners have a discussion which implies that it's the standard mode for aircars, at least in Haven, and that switching over to manual mode requires the user to pass a blood-alcohol test. Of course, the books also make a side-mention that Havenites routinely tamper with the built-in blood-alcohol testing equipment.
- Mesa, judging by some scenes in Cauldron of Ghosts, has very tight regulations on when you can switch your car from the onboard A.I. to manual control.
- House of Robots: Robot Revolution introduces the SUV-EX, or "Soovee", an SUV that's been outfitted with an AI that allows it to drive itself. It also comes equipped with movies and video games to keep the passengers entertained. While it does have a steering wheel, it tends to retract it, to the chagrin of Mr. Rodriguez, who actually enjoys driving the car.
- The Fiat Affordable from Incompetence, which becomes a plot point.
- In Robert A. Heinlein's Job: A Comedy of Justice, his protagonists—who are being involuntarily dumped from one parallel world to another—wind up in a relatively higher-tech universe and are picked up by a guy in a very slick automated automobile. (Both protagonists are stark naked at the time; also, the guy who gives them a ride later turns out to be Satan.)
- The genesis of everything Killdozer is based on Theodore Sturgeon's as-titled novella. A driller bulldozer unearths an ancient spirit, possessing it beyond usability; such that it becomes a half sentient human only killing machine.
- In Larry Niven's Known Space universe, it's illegal (and, in fact, a capital offense) on Earth to operate a car on manual within city limits. Considering how some people drive and the fact that they're all flying cars...
- Lock In: This technology is common in cars, but not everyone uses it.
Shane: Autodrive is a thing that happens.Vann: This is a Bureau car. Lowest-bidder autodrive is not something you want to trust.
- In Stephen Baxter's Manifold series, "SmartDrive" automated cars is a recurring mention, pioneered in the early 2020s. In Manifold: Time, the SmartDrive is only shown activated when Emma is driving through Death Valley at over 100 miles per hour.
- Methuselah's Children by Robert A. Heinlein opens with a character settling back for a nap while her car drives her to her destination, before resuming manual control when she reaches the back roads.
- Bill Vargas from Mirror Project made his fortune manufacturing self-driving cars, although he never actually used them because he trusted his own driving more than any machine. He was driving when his wife Lynn was killed.
- In the sci-fi novel (part of The Night's Dawn Trilogy) by Peter F. Hamilton The Neutronium Alchemist, the intelligence agents pursuing Dr Alkad Mzu have to switch to manual driving when the electronic-warfare abilities of the Possessed glitch their vehicles.
- Pretty much the default for civilian anti-gravity "gliders" and similar vehicles on worlds that have them in Perry Rhodan. Pilots usually can take personal control (or at least more or less forcefully override the automatic guidance if they know how or just get lucky), but in their everyday lives most people simply never bother. (This is sometimes played for humor, as with a character who finds out from a public glider he's requested the day Earth's automated infrastructure resumes operations after a rather extended downtime — to see if they really work again — that all of that service's rides will be free that day...and suddenly feels rather grateful for that because he's gotten so used to having to hotwire shut-down vehicles and otherwise co-opt "ownerless" gear using that he doesn't even have any money on him.)
- The Place Inside the Storm: Although manual cars are still found in PacNW, they've been banned years ago in CoastSW.
- These had just been invented in Remnants when the rock hit. It mentions that the legal driving age was reduced to twelve if you're driving an automated car.
- Isaac Asimov's "Sally": This story predicted some of the controversy around robotic cars, such as the move from privately owned cars to fleets of robo-cabs. The narrator blames it on the cost of automatic automobiles, while more modern reasons would add the decreasing convenience of urban car ownership, parking, and maintenance.
I can remember when there wasn't an automobile in the world with brains enough to find its own way home. I chauffeured dead lumps of machines that needed a man's hand at their controls every minute. Every year machines like that used to kill tens of thousands of people. The automatics fixed that. A positronic brain can react much faster than a human one, of course, and it paid people to keep hands off the controls. You got in, punched your destination and let it go its own way. We take it for granted now, but I remember when the first laws came out forcing the old machines off the highways and limiting travel to automatics. Lord, what a fuss. They called it everything from communism to fascism, but it emptied the highways and stopped the killing, and still more people get around more easily the new way. Of course, the automatics were ten to a hundred times as expensive as the hand-driven ones, and there weren't many that could afford a private vehicle. The industry specialized in turning out omnibus-automatics. You could always call a company and have one stop at your door in a matter of minutes and take you where you wanted to go. Usually, you had to drive with others who were going your way, but what's wrong with that?
- Secret Histories: The CARnivores, which Eddie's narration describes as "sentient, meat-eating cars with attitude" the first time they appear. Supposedly they're either from another dimension, where cars evolved to replace humans, or are ancient predators native to Earth who learned to look like cars so they can prey on humans without being noticed. Either way, they leech the vitality out of normal cars until they malfunction or are sufficiently weakened from metal fatigue, then force the drivers off the road, usually in the early hours of the morning so they won't be noticed, and devour the driver and any passengers (the hoods conceal their mouths, which are full of churning steel teeth). Eddie has to deal with a pack of them early in The Man With the Golden Torc.
- The Eoin Colfer novel The Supernaturalist takes place in the near future where almost all cars use plastic treads instead of tires and lock into grooves on the roads while driving, though not all roads have this track system and are used for drag racing.
- Stephen King's short story Trucks does this with anything automotive, and they don't like humans any more...
- Trucks was later turned into a movie, Maximum Overdrive, which also features a rather unpleasantly homicidal pop machine.
- Vorkosigan Saga:
- In A Civil Campaign, Miles' armsman/chauffeur, after the third vehicular near-miss of the week, inquires when Vorbarr Sultana would be getting its municipal traffic control system installed. Miles responds that priority was being given to the automated air traffic control in light of increased lightflyer fatalities.
- Brothers in Arms and Cryoburn describe in passing the use of automated ground vehicles in London (Earth) and Northbridge (Kibou-Daini), respectively.
- And auto-cabs are mentioned in both A Civil Campaign and Captain Vorpatril's Alliance, so these exist even without a municipal traffic control system.
- Used in a Warlock of Gramarye novel by Christopher Stasheff, the robot brain eventually becomes the property of Rod Gallowglass' family and Rod's faithful servant, Fess.
- The Woman Who Made Machines Go Haywire has the title character temporarily making her car drive itself. However, it does so without the slightest regard for road laws; and at one point even chases a dog
- The first episode of American Auto focuses on Payne Motors developing their first self-driving car, the Ponderosa. It works well at first, then they discover that the car's pedestrian sensor can't detect people with darker skin tones.
- Angel, Gunn, and Spike are taken to a Hell dimension by one in the Angel episode "Underneath". Although, unlike most examples on this page, it is driven by magic, rather than technology.
- Black Mirror. In "Metalhead", a Killer Robot dog kills the driver of a van, then hacks into its computer to start the van up again, chase down the protagonist and run her off the road.
- An episode of Bull starts with a self-driving car with a virtual personality, capable of understanding human speech and even carrying on a conversation, killing its engineer. The engineer's wife sues the company CEO, and Bull decides to help her. It's revealed that the CFO convinced another engineer to program the car to kill the other one in order to cash in on the company failure. Interestingly, it's pointed out that the vehicle's ethics algorithms allow for the possibility of allowing the passenger(s) to die, if that preserves the maximum number of lives in the area. Basically, if there is a fallen tree on the road, and swerving would mean possibly colliding with cars filled with people, the vehicle would make the decision to hit the tree.
- Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons: Several times, when the Mysterons re-create a vehicle, they don't bother re-creating the pilot/driver. The Mysterons being invisible, it's never quite clear whether they're controlling it from afar or whether they're invisibly there behind the wheel. It's almost definitely the former case the one time they directly steal a nuclear transporter while the driver is still in it. After the truck has driven itself into a safely hidden underground carpark, the driver then helplessly watches the nuclear device arm itself...
- An episode of F/X: The Series featured the Vindicator, an automated 4x4 capable of arresting criminals. It was a Show Within a Show, and the vehicle was, in fact, remote-controlled.
- An episode of The Good Wife deals with a car accident involving a self-driving car. Apparently, the car was not supposed to be out on the streets yet, and an employee took it out for a joyride. Despite this, the lead engineer claims that the car's design is perfect and self-learning. In the end, though, it's discovered that some of the employee's programmer friends decided to play a prank on him and hacked the car before he "borrowed" it. Their intention was to mess with the stereo, windows, and other controls for fun, but they accidentally caused the car's brakes to fail at a crucial moment.
- In the Italian Gomorra - La serie, a Camorra boss has a car specially modified for a high-risk meeting. It looks like the car is bulletproof, but it gets blown up by an RPG-7 antitank launcher the moment it drives into the meeting area. As the ambushers stroll out hiding and smirk at the burning vehicle, the boss and The Dragon appear and gun them down. Turns out the modification enabled them to drive the car remotely.
- KITT from Knight Rider is probably the Trope Codifier for this trope.
- The titular Wonder-Bug (a magical dune buggy) in from The Krofft Supershow.
- The NCIS episode "Driven" involved the autonomous vehicle "Otto". Incidentally, it had also been programmed to kill a human occupant.
- Lightning Cruiser and Storm Blaster from Power Rangers Turbo.
- There was also an evil version in Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers, the Monster of the Week called the Crabby Cabby. (Not only was it evil and led the Rangers on a chase down the highway with Kimberly, Bulk, and Skull trapped inside it, it was a Deadpan Snarker with the attitude of a stereotypical rude New York cab driver.)
- On Top Gear, Jeremy supervises a fully automated BMW 330i after it has "learned" the test track, noting that if you really want to terrify yourself, the automation system can be fitted on an M3.
- Total Recall 2070: New York City in 2070 is shown to have an extensive network of automated automobiles to move occupants across town.
- The parody Country-Western song "My Self-Driving Truck Left Today" by Tom Smith is the singer's lament about how his life his so messed up that his car dumped him.
- Champions: In the Millennium City setting, all cars within the city limits must have Vehicle Control Chips installed and functioning. The cars are driven by a central computer, rather than an onboard system. Presumably, the cars still have regular human controls as well — the sourcebook states that cars from other areas can enter as long as they have VCCs, and the system is only really in place in Millennium City, so you would be driving manually up to the city, then switching to computer control. As the cars in Champions Online 1) have opaque windows, making it impossible to see if anyone is in them, and 2) only exist as indestructible, moving scenery that occasionally bump (harmlessly) a PC or NPC, the point is actually rather moot.
- In Nomine: The angels called Kyriotates specialize in possessing people and animals (benignly). Kyriotates in service to the Archangel of Lightning can also possess machines and have been known to possess cars, to drive their buddies, capture bad guys, and so on.
- Paranoia: Vehicles are often equipped with bot brains, which (as usual) malfunction, misunderstand, or deliberately screw over their passengers with alarming regularity. And the passengers may not be trained in manual control.
Troubleshooter: Why didn't you tell me we were headed for a collision?
Flybot: You said "left turn", so I turned left. I suggested maybe we should do something else, but nooo. You were pretty rude about it, too.
- Automobiles in many of the larger cities become part of the Grid Guide system, which is designed to allow vehicles to traverse traffic in the easiest, most efficient way possible while eliminating the chance for human driving error. In such a way, cars can move at nearly top speed and shift and turn instantly only inches from one another with little risk. The trope differs from normal in that, while the cars themselves are automated, they're not autonomous — they're slaved to a traffic management system that directs the cars from a central location.
- There are also references to "road trains" — teams of driverless, cabless freight trucks that link up end-to-end to autonomously traverse the highway network — that have replaced driver-controlled trucks for overland shipping. Driving alongside these massive vehicles can be unnerving, especially if you're unsure whether the corporation that programmed them is inclined to rate the potential cost of accidents more by "how much will it cost us to repair dents and repaint our road train" than by "how many people will die if our road train sideswipes their car"?
- Transhuman Space: Everything with computing power (which is everything) runs at the very least a non-sapient AI. Some supplements have suggested it might be illegal for a human to drive a car (especially an aircar), since they wouldn't have as much awareness as an AI treating the vehicle as a cybershell.
- Warhammer 40,000: Downplayed. The Imperium doesn't use AI ever since a Robot Uprising millennia ago, so instead they use servitors, lobotomized humans with various cybernetic replacement body parts, who function more or less as autopilots. There's also the question of Machine Spirits, which range from simple automatic systems to full-on sentient entities (one Land Raider went berserk after its entire crew was killed and brutally avenged them) Depending on the Writer.
- Most cars (and even bikes) in Cyberpunk 2077 are fully autonomous and can drive their way to the player if summoned, although they're not perfect.
- There's also an automated taxi service in Night City controlled by an AI called Delamain.
- Sam and Max Beyond Time and Space: The DeSoto becomes self-driving (thanks to being demonically possessed) after the Freelance Police rescue it from Hell in "What's New, Beelzebub?".
- Dead Space 3: The first time Isaac gets to use the stasis module to slow down traffic on an automated freeway, the transport he slows down immediately gets rammed by the transport behind it, causing a massive pileup that shuts down the entire road.
- All the cars in Watch Dogs: Legion have self-driving capabilities, from London's ubiquitous Black Cab to custom 60's sports cars.
- Schlock Mercenary:
- Automated automobiles are the norm, and AIs are easily advanced enough to drive them. As discussed here, manual operating under the influence is a crime punishable by death due to the many layers of security intended to prevent manual operation at all, the bypassing of which could only have been done while sober, especially since in some cases the vehicle wouldn't have come with a manual control in the first place.
- Kathryn is annoyed that her Parkata Urbatsu training is useless when she tries to fly through traffic, since all the cars are programmed to avoid collisions, and won't let her use them as jumping-off points. Schlock, on the other hand, notes that they are actually programmed to prevent injuries, and is able to steal a van by jumping into traffic without a flight suit.
Schlock: The van swooped under me and carried me off, so it's more like it stole me.
- Zoomers in Shortpacked!, and their Super Prototype Ultra Car, before she became a Robot Girl.
- Toonhole: In "Self Driving Car", a couple purchases a self-driving car. However, before they can use it, it drives off, has a bottle of beer, and crashes itself into a tree.
- Bonkers: Ma Parker the tow-truck (voiced by the late June Foray), assisted by her minions Wooly and Bully, is an early example of this trope, from 1993. As a Filler Villain she only appeared in "Calling All Cars" where she was defeated on a demolition derby racetrack by the bobcat cop Bonkers. She also appears in the Sega Genesis game adaptation.
- An episode of Danny Phantom had him and his friends attempts to find three Power Crystals capable of Rewriting Reality if placed in a special Reality Gauntlet. One of the gems, which had the power to control life and death, potentially gave life to a space shuttle, which culminated in a chase between Danny and the aggressive aircraft before he removed the gem animating it and returned it back to normal. It and the other two gems were also used by the villain to turn a bunch of train cars into robots.
- The Futurama episode "The Honking" had the Planet Express crew dealing with the legacy of the accursed Werecar. Said Werecar and its victims, naturally, drove themselves.
- The "Car Trouble" episode of Kim Possible, there is a self-driving car named Systemized Automotive Driving Intelligence, or "Sadie".
- The animated Monty Python's Flying Circus sketch Killer Cars was about this trope.
- The equally short-lived Pole Position cartoon of the mid-1980s featured two of these—a classic Mustang look-alike called Wheels, and a retro-futuristic stunt car with gull-wing doors called Roadie.
- Happened at least twice in The Real Ghostbusters. Both times, Ecto-1 was possessed by a malevolent spirit and attacked the Ghostbusters. The first time, it immediately transformed into a monstrous version of itself, but the transformation was much slower and subtler in the second instance; the car spent half the episode screwing with Winston's head before taking off on its own.
- Also happened a third time in Extreme Ghostbusters, but Ecto-1 wasn't alone in that instance.
- A possessed VW Bug (that could also become a "mantis ghost") was part of the related toy line.
- The Replacements: C.A.R.T.E.R. a.k.a. C.A.R. is the high-tech family car with a British accent.
- The Simpsons;
- In "Maximum Homerdrive", Homer discovers that long-distance truckers secretly allow a computer to do the driving. When the computer finds that Homer has the truck on a collision course with no room to brake and is not the original driver, the computer itself escapes the truck.
- Parodied in "Homer Loves Flanders": Homer accepts going to a big football game with Flanders. While they are driving trough the stadium parking lot, Homer spots Lenny and Carl, and makes Flanders duck so they won't see him with Homer, despite Flanders being the one driving. Thus Lenny and Carl see Homer waving at them from the passenger seat of a "driverless" car...
Lenny: Hey, look! Homer's got one of those robot cars! [A loud offscreen crash is heard]
Carl: One of those American robot cars!
- In "Bart On The Road", Bart and his friends rent a car. Bart, who was driving, climbs into the back seat explaining, "Cruise control." It goes pretty much as you would expect. Homer makes the same mistake about Flanders' car in "Skinner's Sense Of Snow".
- Elon Musk gives them to the population of Springfield in "The Musk Who Fell From Earth". He even gives Arnie Pie an automated helicopter.
- Homer gets a job testing these in "Baby, You Can't Drive My Car" but finds that they monitor passenger conversations and then drive to the site of relative businesses that are bribing the car company.
- Speed Buggy follows three teenagers (Mark, Debbie, and Tinker) and a talking dune buggy as they partake in various adventure.
- Stroker and Hoop had a sentient automated car named C.A.R.R. Although he wasn't always helpful, considering his vengeful, paranoid, somewhat racist, and rather effeminate (although he denies it) personality.
- In some incarnations, the Autobots have used holograms or mannequins to seem like they're avoiding this trope. The first holo-driver was demonstrated by Hound in the original The Transformers, as he was one of the few with holographic capabilities. Motorcycle-bots Prowl (Transformers: Animated) and Arcee (Transformers: Prime) project their own holographic rider avatars. In the Alliance comic series set in the movieverse, Optimus Prime sets his holo-driver to look like Peter Cullen.
- In The Transformers (Marvel), Wheeljack installed the aforementioned mannequins so the Autobots could appear to have drivers in vehicle mode. They weren't necessarily convincing.
- Transformers: Armada: Sideways does this, but slightly differently. Instead of a hologram, the combined and disguised form of his minicons Rook and Crosswise "drives" him.
- The star of the short-lived 1980s cartoon Turbo Teen was a teenager who turned into one of these.
- In The Venture Bros., Brock Samson's beloved '69 Charger turned out to have an automated capability among its many spy gadgets, as we found out when it was programmed to turn against him. "Arleen" was one of the few things he was ever sad about killing.
- Hanna-Barbera gave us Wheelie and the Chopper Bunch which takes place in a world of anthropomorphic vehicles and centers on Wheelie, his girlfriend Rota Ree, and a motorcycle gang known as the Chopper Bunch.
- This site has a good rundown.
- Automated Automobiles are a common theme of real-life Zeerust. According to this 1968 article about how life was supposed to be like in 2008:
IT'S 8 a.m., Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2008, and you are headed for a business appointment 300 miles away. You slide into your sleek, two-passenger air-cushion car, press a sequence of buttons and the national traffic computer notes your destination, figures out the current traffic situation and signals your car to slide out of the garage. Hands free, you sit back and begin to read the morning paper—which is flashed on a flat TV screen over the car's dashboard. Tapping a button changes the page.The car accelerates to 150 mph in the city's suburbs, then hits 250 mph in less built-up areas, gliding over the smooth plastic road. You whizz past a string of cities, many of them covered by the new domes that keep them evenly climatized year round. Traffic is heavy, typically, but there's no need to worry. The traffic computer, which feeds and receives signals to and from all cars in transit between cities, keeps vehicles at least 50 yards apart. There hasn't been an accident since the system was inaugurated.
- A variation appears in this 1956 GM Motorama film; the passengers tell their destination to an "Autoway Safety Controller," who then electronically drives their car via radio remote.
- Guided buses have automatic steering.
- Due to high speeds and tight schedules, subways heavily relied on automated movement and coordination ever since the 80s. Nowadays, automatically driven overland trains also become quite common. The operator is chiefly present in the cabin for override in case of emergency.
- In Germany, there are serious plans for autonomous taxis that are already in concept proof stages. Yes, they use an iPad to summon the car and follow its progress in real time.
- An Omnibus program from the mid-50s showed a car with "sniffers". These would "sniff" the signal on a guide wire buried beneath the surface of the roadway.
- At the Sci Fi Drive In in Disney World, the film being shown shows some toy cars being automatically driven at the RCA Research Labs in Princeton, New Jersey, in the 1950s.
- Several cars already have a radar cruise control that maintains adequate distance from the car ahead, even in stop-and-go traffic, as well as optical accidental lane change prevention systems that gently nudge the car to the appropriate side to keep the driver from changing lanes involuntarily. Not to the point where you can get on the highway, set the speed, and let the car keep driving until you get to your turn off, but getting there.
- Automated freight transit is likely to make even more of an impact than passenger cabs. Daimler has recently introduced a mostly automated trailer truck, with plans to convert to full automation as regulations develop to allow for it. Truckers and truck stop owners beware.
- Roborace is a racing series for automated race cars that will use the same tracks as Formula E. Two DevBot automated race cars participated in a test session at Buenos Aires in 2017. One crashed into the wall at the apex of a corner, but the other completed its stint, even avoiding a collision with a dog that had run onto the track.