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Murder by Remote Control Vehicle

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"Your car just assassinated its driver and then attempted to kill us!"
The Doctor, Doctor Who, "Spyfall, Part 1"

A variation on Vehicular Sabotage, Murder by Remote Control Vehicle is an attempt to kill someone by somehow taking control of their vehicle from a distance and causing it to crash at high speed. Exactly how the villain gains control of the hero's vehicle is sometimes explained (e.g. leaving a remote-controlled vehicle for them to find during their escape), but can be just Handwaved, or no explanation given at all.

One reason for doing this is the villain wishes to watch their demise while remaining at a safe distance. If this is the case, expect the villain to have installed a speaker in the vehicle so they can taunt the hero, and to give the hero a few close shaves before going for the kill. The hero will use this time to come up with a clever escape from the situation.

So far as we know, this is not Truth in Television yet, but cars are becoming increasingly computerized and computer scientists have demonstrated that it is possible to hack into cars that have wireless connectivity. Car manufacturers are now being warned to take computer security into account, especially as self-driving cars become more common.

Compare Car Fu and Make It Look Like an Accident.

For this trope's little sister, see Deadly Remote Control Toy.

As this is a Death Trope, unmarked spoilers abound. Beware.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • In Lycoris Recoil, Robota the hacker attempts to do this to another hacker called Walnut by hacking their car and driving it into the ocean, but the hack is overridden and Chisato and Takina distract Robota long enough to prevent another hack.

    Comic Books 
  • In a Silver Age Batman story, a villain called the Outsider was able to take control of Batman's equipment from a distance (and break the laws of physics). He tries to kill Batman by seizing control of the Batmobile and making it drive up the wall of a building, and then off a bridge.
  • Hack/Slash: In "Blood Blower", a dog-hater uses a remote-controlled snowblower to kill puppies, and later uses it in an attempt to murder Cassie and Lisa.
  • Robin: Robin and Spoiler were once able to escape after being surrounded by a heavily armed group of gangsters and take the costumed criminal Tim had been investigating—who had gotten on the gangsters' wrong side—into custody by making the gangsters scatter with the threat that the remote-controlled Redbird was going to run over them.
  • Spider-Man: In The Amazing Spider-Man (1963) #160, The Tinkerer tries to kill Spider-Man using a remote-controlled version of the Spider-Mobile (a very short-lived spider-themed vehicle owned by Spidey).
  • Spirou & Fantasio had an attempted abduction by remote-controlled car. Zorglub loses control of it due to a button mispress and his remote's limited range, causing the car to crash and breaking Fantasio's foot.
  • Superman: In Action Comics #468, western-themed villain Terra-Man controls a fleet of driverless cars and sends them charging towards Superman as the urban equivalent of a cattle stampede.

    Films – Animated 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The obscure direct to video movie Air Panic (2002) has a passenger jet being hijacked by a rogue hacker via computerized remote control with the hero having to prevent it by cutting the remote control connection in the plane. Things get more literal (and karmic) when the hacker regains control of the plane after it lands and makes it taxi with intent of starting things all over again but, while struggling with the heroes in the back of an ambulance, he loses the laptop and the ambulance is subsequently rammed by the runaway airplane and explodes (the heroes, of course, jumped out Just in Time).
  • In Batman Returns, the Penguin installs a remote control device in the Batmobile and uses it to try and kill Batman while Batman is driving.
  • Creep Van: The killer has a small remote control that he uses to drive his van when he's not behind its wheel. Naturally, he uses it as part of his murders at one point.
  • In The Teaser to For Your Eyes Only, Blofeld (although he is never named as such) fakes a message from Bond's office and sends a helicopter to pick him up. He then kills the pilot and assumes remote control of the chopper. Taunting Bond, he causes the chopper to make several near misses on high buildings before steering it into a disused factory where it will inevitably crash. Bond (naturally) manages to disable the remote control and regain control of the helicopter before the crash. Blofeld gets Hoist by His Own Petard as the chopper dumps him into the smokestack.
  • 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 Law Abiding Citizen, Clyde kills Jonas Cantrell using a remotely controlled robot armed with a heavy machine gun.

  • Catfishing on CatNet: When CheshireCat hacks a self-driving car and plows it into Steph's dad, they're not, strictly speaking, attempting to kill their target — they had accounted for the possibility of their target's death and wouldn't particularly have minded it, but the purpose of the exercise was to stop him from kidnapping Steph. It's still close enough to worry other characters, though — Annette, CheshireCat's creator, has set up alerts for just this sort of thing in case CheshireCat goes rogue, and quickly disconnects CheshireCat from the internet.
  • The Murderbot Diaries
    • In "All Systems Red", the autopilot of the expedition hopper is shut down as they're crossing a mountain range. Fortunately the pilot has her hands on the controls at the time. Everyone thinks this is a glitch until another expedition on the planet is massacred by their own sabotaged SecUnits.
    • In "Artificial Condition", Murderbot is bodyguarding some researchers going to meet a Corrupt Corporate Executive who, it turns out, is just luring them into a trap. While on the space shuttle to their destination, killware is downloaded into the shuttle's computer destroying the pilot bot. Fortunately Murderbot has recently made the acquaintance of a sentient spacecraft who downloads itself and corrects their course before the humans on board have time to do more than say Oh, Crap!
    • In "Exit Strategy", a space battle between two corporate gunships begins with one of them loading a self-aware sabotage program into the other, which proceeds to shut down the engines and weapons, and attempts to open the airlocks.

    Live-Action TV 
  • This is how Christopher Pelant tried to kill a school full of girls on Bones. He intends it to be a Sadistic Choice for Hodgins — stop the drone Pelant hacked or save the money being drained — but Hodgins doesn’t care about his money.
  • Criminal Minds:
    • One episode has an unsub who's able to hack into airplanes via the in-flight entertainment systems. He doesn't so much fly the planes remotely as lock them into autopilot and cut off ground communication, then deploy the landing gear and slats, causing the planes to crash (though he does take manual control when confronted by the team).
    • Another episode has an unsub hacking cars and causing them to hit random pedestrians. He eventually has a breakdown and abducts the woman who'd turned him down, remote controlling her car while he's in the passenger seat.
  • CSI: In "Boston Brakes", the Victim of the Week is murdered by the use of a computer program that allows the braking and steering systems of a car to be remotely hacked.
  • CSI: Cyber: In "Gone in Six Seconds", a hacker called 'Smokescreen' drag races a driverless vehicle remotely, forcing it into another car and killing the driver. Brody later ends up in the car as it is being controlled by the hacker.
  • An episode of CSI: NY features a Serial Killer whose gimmick is remotely sabotaging computer systems (e.g. changing the ordering system of a restaurant so a victim with an allergy has their meal loaded with allergens and blocking the emergency call). His first kill was a variation of this trope; he hacked the GPS of the victim's (expensive) car so it would take them to a bad part of town, lock up the doors and engine, and then sound the car alarm to lure in crooks.
  • Diagnosis: Murder: In "Inheritance of Death", remote control is used to send an elderly millionaire's electric wheelchair crashing down a flight of stairs.
  • Doctor Who:
    • "The Sontaran Stratagem" starts with a journalist being killed by her own car when its emissions reduction system (part of a planet-conquering ploy by the eponymous Sontarans) takes over. The Doctor is then himself trapped in a car controlled by a murderous AI, but escapes by using a Logic Bomb. (The AI had been programmed to kill the Doctor and to disobey any order the Doctor gave it, so the Doctor ordered it to kill him.)
    • "The Bells of Saint John", the Villain of the Week shuts off all the lights in the suburb except those of the house where Clara Oswald lives, presenting a bullseye for the airliner that's about to come down on their heads. Escaping is easy as the Doctor's TARDIS is right outside, but stopping the airliner crashing means they have to materialise on board and fix the problem before it hits the ground.
    • "Spyfall": The Doctor and her companions are picked up in an SUV by MI6. On their way there, the vehicle is abruptly hacked and the driver disintegrated. The SUV is then nearly driven backwards over a precipice before the Doctor manages to stop it by ripping off the rearview mirror and using it to reflect the disintegrator ray back into the dashboard computer, halting the vehicle centimetres from the edge.
  • The Dukes of Hazzard: Season 7 brought "Danger on the Hazzard Express", where Boss schemes with two robbers plan to steal the General Lee and, after placing a remote-control device in the engine and steering gear, use it to crash into a train carrying $2 million to the state's reserve. The trope kicks into effect when the robbers – realizing that Bo and Luke will come after them – plan to kidnap the Duke boys, restrain them inside the car, and then crash the car into the train. (Boss, knowing what this means, immediately turns against his associates when they refuse to back down. And of course, the Duke boys do manage to regain control of the car and eventually defeat the bad guys.)
  • Elementary: In "Murder Ex Machina", the two shooters who kill a Russian oligarch and his bodyguard are then killed themselves when the controls of their car are hacked causing them to drive off a bridge.
  • FBI: Most Wanted: In "Execute", a hacker murders a family by seizing control of their car and causing it crash into a tree.
  • MacGyver (2016): "CO2 Sensor + Tree Branch" had a hacker taking over "Bruno", the military-grade (read:tank-like) car drone developed by Mac's Girl of the Week and going on a destructive rampage that was going to culminate with it shooting up the Pentagon unless the Phoenix team stopped it. The hacker turned out to be the (former) computer mogul who originally organized the drone competition that "Bruno" was built for, who was protesting the military's decision to take over his contest (even ruining him when he refused) and use it to find tech for next-generation Attack Drones when he explicitly wanted the drones to be used for ferrying wounded soldiers trapped in hostile territory.
  • In Madam Secretary, Liz is sure that her old CIA colleague George's death in a car accident wasn't an accident, based on timing. After being arrested at season's end, Juliet confesses to having murdered George to cover up the conspiracy she was involved in by hacking the car's computer.
  • Major Crimes: In "Reality Check", the squad discover that a car being driven by a couple on a reality show had its steering hacked, forcing the car to drive off a cliff.
  • In the Midsomer Murders episode "Shot at Dawn", the murderer uses remote control vehicles several times, either by crashing a vehicle the victim is in or using a vehicle to chase someone down.
  • Murder, She Wrote: In "Hit, Run and Homicide", the murderer uses a remote-controlled station wagon to run over a pedestrian. While bicycling about a wooded area, Jessica discovers the murder weapon and decides to take a closer look at the station wagon's inner workings. Once inside, however, she becomes trapped when someone in a van operates the remote control device to lock her inside, to activate the automobile's engine, and to steer her away at a dangerous speed, en route to an overhang above the rocky seacoast.
  • NCIS: One episode has someone sabotaging an experimental self-driving car so anybody who gets in it and triggers a certain type of actions related to maintenance will be trapped and suffocated with the car's redirected fumes. This is what happens to the Victim of the Week and almost happens to Abby.
  • On two different episodes of Person of Interest, the Number of the Week has his car hacked and forced to accelerate (while disabling all other controls), forcing Reese and Finch to race to stop (or counter-hack) the car before it crashes.

  • The Shadow: In a 1939 episode called "The Inventor of Death", some mysterious force takes control of the car Margot Lane is driving and crashes it, injuring both Margot and Lamont Cranston (aka The Shadow), while killing their passenger. It later turns out the car was remote-controlled by a Mad Scientist who has also invented a killer robot. This may be the Ur-Example.

    Video Games 
  • In Saints Row: The Third, for The Boss to be able to wrestle Killbane at Murderbrawl XXXI, they must first get rid of the other competing wrestlers through this method.
  • In the latter two Watch_Dogs games, the Player Character can pull this on unsuspecting foes: since every car is connected to CtOS, they can be hacked and commanded to drive forwards, backwards, left or right. Not enough for precise control, but perfect for distraction and flattening any guards who happen to be in the way.

    Western Animation 
  • In the Action League NOW! episode, "Tune-Up of Terror", Hodge Podge plants a remote control device in the Action Mobile to frame Meltman for bad driving and send the rest of the Action League into the road to get run over by a much bigger car.
  • Batman: The Animated Series: The episode "The Mechanic" has the Penguin discover a garage where the Batmobile's designer maintains Batman's vehicles. The Penguin holds the designer's daughter hostage and forces the designer to booby-trap the Batmobile, including giving Penguin the ability to control it remotely.
  • Danger Mouse: In "Big Head Awakens", Prof. Squawkencluck's new security system goes berserk. It seizes control of the Dangermobile and attempts to run down DM and Penfold.
  • Guardians of the Galaxy (2015): In "Long Distance Runaround", the Collector takes control of the Milano and flies it towards a Kree warship. Then he makes it fire so that the Kree will retaliate and kill the Guardians.
  • The New Adventures of Superman: In "The Deadly Dish", Luthor attempts to run Perry White over with a remote control steamroller. By implication, the piledriver and wrecking ball he uses to try and kill Jimmy and Lois must also be remotely controlled.
  • Superman: The Animated Series: In "Target", a remote control device planted by a stalker causes Lois's car to go out of control while on an overpass. When Clark attempts to save her, the airbag is triggered, trapping her in the car.