Self-driving cars have long been depicted in cinematic narratives, across genres from science fiction films to fantasy films. In some cases, a self-driving car is personified as one of the main characters. This article examines cinematic representations and imaginaries in order to understand the development of the self-driving technology and its integration in contemporary societies, drawing on examples such as The Love Bug, Knight Rider, Minority Report and I, Robot. Conceptually and methodologically, the article combines close readings of films with technological concerns and theoretical considerations, in an attempt to grasp the entanglement of cinematographic imaginaries, audiovisual technologies, artificial intelligence and human interactions that characterise the introduction of self-driving cars in contemporary societies. The human–AI machine interaction is considered both on technological and theoretical levels. Issues of automation, agency and disengagement are traced in cinematic representations and tackled, calling into question the concepts of socio-technical assemblage.