Nostalgia-Driven: The Self-Driving ‘Incredibile’ from Disney’s ‘The Incredibles’
In this recurring series, Ground Truth explores iconic technology throughout pop culture history that left an indelible impression about the future of artificial intelligence and what self-driving could become. Not necessarily the most capable robots or flashiest driverless cars, but the ones that connected most deeply with us and remain parked in our brains forever.
As the parent of a young child, you can imagine that Disney/Pixar movies are quite popular in my house — not least among them, the 2004 animated superhero flick The Incredibles and its 2018 sequel Incredibles 2.
For those who aren’t familiar, the adorable action franchise centers around a super-powered family making its way through a world in which “supers” have been outlawed, while juggling their own extraordinary powers and impulses to fight crime. The main characters are super strong Mr. Incredible, aka Robert Parr, his elastic wife Elastigirl, aka Helen Parr, eldest daughter and psychokinetic Violet Parr, super fast middle son Dashiell ‘Dash’ Parr, and multi-powered baby Jack-Jack Parr.
But one overlooked member of the crew, so-to-speak, is Mr. Incredible’s vehicle: the aptly named “Incredibile” (rhymes with “automobile” or “Batmobile.”) This hi-tech car appeared briefly in the original 2004 Incredibles and played a much larger role in the sequel.
Right from the opening scene of The Incredibles, the Incredibile was revealed to have a highly capable, if not exactly street legal, self-driving mode called “auto drive,” and numerous other spectacular bells and whistles befitting a family of costumed crime-fighters.
The first thing to note about the Incredibile is that it looks awesome. At least in its initial form, it’s a sleek, low-slung, sporty vehicle that’s reminiscent, to my eyes, of a 1960s Lamborghini Miura (although the Disney Fandom Wiki thinks it is probably a modified 1955 Citroen DS or Jaguar E-Type).
It’s black and blue with a large red decal atop the vented hood, to match Mr. Incredible’s old school costuming shown in both films. It also has a rocket booster engine used in both films, enabling the car to travel much faster than the rest of traffic (which, of course, is in direct contrast to how autonomous vehicles safely operate in the real world).
Other features include ejector seats; a reclining supersuit changing machine; retractable rocket launchers; a computer system that can track police pursuits and automatically route the car to intercept them (“merge pursuit”); the ability to camouflage itself as a regular car; and, similar to Spy Hunter, the ability to instantly transform itself into a watercraft.
In Incredibles 2, the car comes to the decisive aid of the Parr family children and their super-powered family friend, Frozone, when they’re attacked by “brainwashed” supers. Dash uses a TV-like remote to summon the car from its parking spot in the home of a wealthy private buyer, which the car exits in spectacular fashion by blasting a hole in the wall with a rocket. When the Incredibile arrives to save the day, knock over a bad guy in the process, Frozone reveals that the car has a voice identification feature and can be controlled by verbal commands. He quickly tells the Incredibile to lower its windows so the kids can hop in and escape.
Later, Dash accidentally, and humorously, activates the Incredibile’s transformation into a boat by saying “I wish the Incredibile could follow that boat,” in reference to a yacht that has captured his parents to be brainwashed as well. The Incredibile receives this as a voice command and promptly turns on its “Hydro” mode, retracting its wheels and zooming off a pier into the water. “Wow, this car does anything I say!” Dash remarks in amazement, before using the ejector seats to launch himself, Violet and baby Jack-Jack onto the enemy yacht where they can save their parents — and the world.
The Incredibile appears again near the end of the second film, covered in seaweed, and in the final scene the family is shown driving in a similarly technologically advanced, rocket-powered, red station wagon. While the Disney Fandom Wiki says the latter is simply a modified version of the Incredibile, Pixar Fandom Wiki says it is actually a new car.
Regardless of whether it makes it through the second film in-tact or not, the concept of the Incredibile is extremely fun, and dare I say, pivotal to The Incredibles franchise. Without the Incredibile, the Parr children would not have been able to rescue their super-powered parents. It serves as both a bit of comic relief and an incredibly powerful tool in the Parr family crime-fighting arsenal.
As you can see, the Incredibile is clearly a well-designed, sharp-looking, reliable vehicle with far more to offer than meets the eye. And while it may come from a kids movie, when it comes to the all-time greatest autonomous vehicles in the history of fiction, the Incredibile from The Incredibles is near the top of my list.
What’s more, the portrayal of the Incredibile’s autonomous driving technology is highly positive, and will hopefully — I say this as someone whose livelihood comes from working at the autonomous vehicle technology company, Argo AI — inspire children and their parents to embrace real-world autonomy as well.