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Automobiles Are Alien

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The loudcages stood lifeless between pools of shattered clear-stone. Beneath their twisted muzzles were dried pools of the juice longpaws fed them
The loudcages were bleeding
Survivors: Darkness Falls

Most humans can interact with and use cars without issue. However, to animals, aliens, other non-humans, and time-travelers, cars are another story. To them, cars are not simple contraptions meant to transport people. They're huge, hulking masses of metal with eerily glowing lights that are constantly running by at high speeds. Oftentimes, characters don't understand that vehicles are objects and believe them to be alive. In xenofiction, cars are distinctly "other" and are amongst the biggest threats to characters. Nevermind the fact that aliens capable of interstellar travel really should understand the concept of vehicular transportation.

Automobiles as hazardous also appear in human-centric works, even if the car itself is not alive. It depends on who is driving the car, the size of the person, the size of the car, and whether the person has experience with automobiles.

Compare to Humans Are Cthulhu. Sub-trope to Humans Through Alien Eyes. Often overlaps with Sinister Car.


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    Anime & Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • Bowzar the Barkbarian, a one-shot villain of Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew!, was transported from a Bronze Age world to the modern day. He establishes his threat level by mistaking a car for a horrible monster and its driver for a swallowed victim, and wrecks it with a single mighty blow. He's surprised when the driver runs for his life instead of showering him with thanks.
  • Marvel Comics' early pre-Fantastic Four mystic character Dr. Droom (renamed Dr. Druid in the Bronze Age to avoid confusion with a certain other doctor) once thwarted an alien invasion by driving a giant crane with a wrecking ball over to an alien spacecraft and whacking it a few times with the ball, while telepathically communicating with the aliens to make them think the crane itself was a typical Earthling. It spooked them badly enough that they took off back into space.

    Fan Works 
  • The cats in Warriors: The Days The Clans Died come across a car crash but don't fully understand it. They think that the wrecked automobile is "dead" and that the "monster" ate a human.
  • In Warriors Rewrite, Clan cats call cars "monsters", as in canon. Firepaw knows them as "cars" due to his life as a kittypet. Cars don't scare him on default, but he's nervous about the highway that marks the border between ThunderClan and ShadowClan.

    Films — Animation 
  • The first time that Chrysta the fairy from FernGully: The Last Rainforest set eyes on the Leveler, she termed it a "monster." Considering that this machine has two chainsaw pincers at the ends of two robotic arms, and also houses a complete lumber mill on caterpillar treads, the Leveler is definitely one monster vehicle. Further, the fairies of Ferngully have never before seen a machine of any kind, and even consider humans to be extinct.
  • While most motor vehicles in Disney's Oliver & Company are routine traffic, and while Fagan's scooter-cum-shopping cart is laughable, the villain's matte black sedan is portrayed as ominous, like a V-8 version of Darth Vader. When this villain pursues his fleeing quarry into the subway tunnels with this car, it heightens this effect.
  • The young furlings of Once Upon a Forest are warned about "yellow dragons" by some friendly birds. These yellow dragons have ravaged the birds' home ground, and felled their trees, creating cursed ground over which they refuse to fly. The furlings must cross this terrain, and are nearly killed by the yellow dragons, which are construction vehicles clearing the ground for a new structure.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In The Adventures of Milo and Otis, when Milo sees a train for the first time, he has no idea what it is, and the narrator states that Milo "kept his eye out for those noisy animals".
  • Similar to Duel is The Car where a rural town in Utah is terrorized by a mysterious black sedan (really a heavily-modified Lincoln Continental) that appears out of nowhere and runs people over. Like the Duel truck, it has a very intimidating appearance and the dark tinted windows makes it impossible to see the driver. Because there is no driver!
  • Duel is about an ordinary man who is being followed by a large truck whose mostly unseen driver appears intent on killing him for unknown reasons. The truck's grungy appearance and massive size, and the fact that the driver is barely visible and never makes his intentions clear, give it the sense of it being an Mechanical Abomination.
  • Like in the book, Ford Prefect from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (2005) chose his name because he thought cars were the dominant species on Earth. Here we see he first met Arthur when Arthur had to push him out of the way of a car he was trying to shake hands with.
  • Discussed/invoked in the nature documentary Hornets: A Sting in the Tale — as a hornet's nest is demolished by a digger, the narrator describes the machine as an "iron dinosaur" immune to stinging.

  • In P. D. Eastman's children's book Are You My Mother?, a baby bird encounters an excavator, which it calls a "snort" after the sound it makes. At first the bird mistakes the machine for its mother, but later it believes it to be a dangerous monster.
  • The Cold Moons:
    • The badgers refer to helicopters as scentless trained "birds". They think that a ladder is its tongue and that it eats humans.
    • The badgers refer to a train as a "serpent" that eats humans.
  • Dragonlinks by Paul Collins is mostly set in a fantasy world, but has a sequence in which a wizard is temporarily transported to our world or one like it. He arrives in the vicinity of a busy motorway, and interprets the cars as some kind of monstrous creature and the lane markings as the equivalent of the protective markings around a summoning circle, preventing them from taking off in all directions.
  • The moles of Duncton Wood fear 'screaming owls' that kill moles trying to cross what human readers can identify as a road.
  • Princess Katerina from Enchantment is teleported into the modern day from 9th century Ukraine. When she encounters an automobile for the first time she is absolutely terrified of it, being convinced that it's a monster sent by Baba Yaga.
  • As a puppy, Fluke is initially terrified of cars.
  • In The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Trilogy, Ford Prefect thought that cars were the dominant earth life form while he was researching Earth. He also chose his human name off of the common British car, the Ford Prefect.
  • In the first light novel of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, Satanic Coupler creates a locomotive and updates it by reading the memory of its passengers. Because of the Team Pet Iggy believing that trains are monstrous things, it adopts a wild monster-machine look with stag beetle's jaws and thorns.
  • Nightside: In London's titular Eldritch Location, some of the cabs are predatory car-shaped entities that devour the unwary, with imitation "drivers" like anglerfish lures.
  • Automobiles get treated this way in Pollyanna especially after one cripples the title character right before the third act.
  • Bears in Seeker Bears call cars "firebeasts". They realize that flatfaces are swallowed inside them and that they "sleep" near flatface dens, however much else evades them. Firebeasts are simply terrifying adversaries that are known to seriously injure or kill bears. Blackpaths (highways) are also unpleasant smelling and scary to cross.
  • The poem Southbound on the Freeway by Mary Swenson has an alien regarding cars as lifeforms.
  • Pufftail from Stray (1987) is a cat who refers to cars as "engines of murder", though he also knows the human name for them. His first major interaction with cars was when the drunk son-in-law of his owners threw him out of a car, injuring his leg. His brother Bootsie didn't survive being thrown out, and Pufftail saw his dead body get mangled by cars.
  • In Survivor Dogs, many of the characters were pet dogs and thus realize there's nothing inherently scary about "loudcages"; they're seen as generally tame "creatures" that longpaws keep as pets to travel places. However, the loudcages the dogs come across in the forest are ferocious and fearsome.
  • Varjak Paw: Being a sheltered inside cat, Varjak has never seen a car. When he must go outdoors and look for a dog (who he hears are large and frightening), he mistakes a car for a dog. Varjak believes them to be monstrous creatures who won't listen to him, no matter what he does, and who want nothing more than to kill him. It isn't until his friend Ginger explains cars to him that he realizes they're relatively harmless and non-living.
  • Cats in Warrior Cats refer to cars as "monsters". Cats try to stay away from highways, or "Thunderpaths" as they call them, however they must use them to pass through territories or go to the High Stone rocks. Quite a few characters end up hit by cars and either killed or disabled. Not only are the cars frightening, but the general atmosphere of the highway is unnerving to cats due to its disgusting smell and unnatural texture.
  • Watership Down:
    • Motor vehicles are called "hrududu," by rabbits, an onomatopoeia of their engine noise. Though most of the nomad rabbits are fearful of these things, and debate whether or not they're living creatures, Bigwig dares to sit on the centerline of a road while a passenger car passes by. "See? It's not interested," he remarks.
    • The traveling rabbits think that a train is a divine being after one provides an unwitting Big Damn Heroes. However the Efrafan rabbits live closer to trains and realize that they're just larger versions of "hrududu".
  • "The Motor Bus" is a parodic Edwardian poem in mixed English and Latin that describes busses as terrifying and horrible monsters invading Oxford and ends with a prayer to God to deliver the citizens from motor busses.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In one episode of Angel, the entire cast mentally reverts to their teenage selves. In most cases, this undoes some character development and makes them a lot dumber. In Angel's case, as a centuries-old vampire, it reverts him to his pre-vampire self. When he ventures outside, he sees cars and is convinced that the world is populated by howling demons moving impossibly fast.
  • Cosmos: There's one prt in which we zoom on Earth from an alien perspective and stop when cars can be discerned. They're considered as possible lifeforms, humans being suggested to be symbiotes required by them to start moving.
  • Several Traveling Matt segments on Fraggle Rock are built around this. He calls them "shiny creatures", attempts to speak their language by beeping, and mistakes a drive-in theater for a ritual where they all close their eyes (power off their headlights) and share dreams.
  • Played with in I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson, where the aliens don't understand the concept of cars, but only because their culture is based entirely on motorcycles and biker culture, so they think cars are just two motorcycles next to each other with a tiny house in the middle.

    Video Games 
  • The wizard's companion in Ni no Kuni describes trains as massive metal dragons which belch smoke, that people ride in, in the other world.

  • Dinosaur Comics: This strip makes the argument that cars are monstrous to humans, as well.
    T. rex: "Driving" is a cool game to play because it requires you to focus on it LITERALLY EVERY SECOND YOU'RE PLAYING, and even though a tiny mistake can kill you instantly, the game is so incredibly boring it can ACTUALLY LULL YOU INTO SLEEP. [...]
    Velociraptor: I don't want to play your game. It sounds monstrous.
  • In The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob, when the time-displaced ninjas flee after almost being struck by a car, Moé says, "It was... horrible! Like some kind of unnatural... horseless carriage! We would never build such a monstrosity in Japan!"

    Web Videos 

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • To a Woodland Creature, highway crossing is a big deal. Cars are quite scary to them. Several animals in The Animals of Farthing Wood are killed by cars, including one couple who give up crossing partway due to their fear.
  • Classic Disney Shorts: The Goofy short ''Motor Mania' has Goofy (as Mr. Walker) being targeted by predatory drivers while crossing the intersection. One scene even has Goofy being chased up a streetlamp by cars that bark like dogs.
  • Automobiles in Toad Patrol are referred to as "Rumble-Crushers" by the young toads after one of them was almost squashed by a car. He was close enough to note that they "rumble." An elder notes "That is a very good name for them."
  • Transformers are usually seen as this in most of the media, first Autobots when they meet humans and before humanity adopt them as allies, and seen straight with Decepticons, not just becoming enemies of Autobots and in general mankind, some of the robots had taken cars and other vehicles as their alternate form.
  • Trollhunters: When Gunmar, Dictatious and two soldiers reach the surface world, they mistake an incoming car for a "surface beast" and one of the soldiers tries to slay it, he gets hit and loses an arm.
  • In a National Film Board of Canada production titled What on Earth!, the vehicles are misidentified by Martian scientists as civilized organisms in a highly structured society. It's Empirical Theory that's Played for Laughs.

    Real Life 
  • A phobia of driving cars is called "vehophobia".
  • Coyotes in North America have discovered that motor vehicles can't move laterally very well. When coyote hunters pursue them, coyotes run onto a roadway and play Roger-Dodge-'Em with the traffic. Hunters are too smart to risk being squished by drivers, and their pursuit dogs no longer regard vehicles as dangerous. Zoologists have found coyotes teach their pups this anti-pursuit trick.