The Automatic Motorist, a British short film from 1911, wants you to avoid self-driving cars at all costs. In it, a robot chauffeur is developed to drive a newly wedded couple to their honeymoon destination. But this robot malfunctions, and all of a sudden the couple is marooned in outer space (and then sinking underwater, and then flying through the sky—it’s complicated).
Directed by filmmaker and magician Walter R. Booth, The Automatic Motorist is a trick film—a genre of silent films popular in the early 1900s that emphasized special effects.
The full 6-minute short should be watched in its entirety, but we present you with a brief analysis below.
So at first, the experiment is going well. An engineer creates the robot chauffeur; the newlyweds love it. Maybe self-driving cars really are the future.
They’re off—until a police officer stops the car and… well, the robot chauffeur gets a little carried away.
All of a sudden, they are fugitives of the law.
Naturally, the robot slams the accelerator—maybe a little too hard, however, because they end up motoring up the dome of what looks like St. Paul’s Cathedral in London.
They are going so fast that they pay a visit to a very unhappy looking moon.
And then they are speeding across Saturn’s rings.
And they… enter Saturn?
And the engineer from the beginning finds an alien lover. Okay.
But wait, they are still on the run from the police, so they have to make a hasty exit.
Naturally, the car plummets underwater.
But at least the happy couple appears to be enjoying their honeymoon!
But all of a sudden, they aren’t underwater anymore. And a local man… shoots them out of the sky?
It’s fine, though, because the robot is dead and the couple is reunited again. A happy ending for all.
Anyway, the point is—don’t ride in a self-driving car, at least until Tesla perfects it.
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