A disturbing question from my son: “Daddy, is Lightning McQueen a robot?”
I’ve had actual nightmares about the automobile-populated world of Cars. Thinking in terms of evolution, imagine some kind of micromechanical start to life. Instead of clay hosting self-reproducing crystals of increasing complexity (or however earth-based biology got bootstrapped), imagine gear-and-spring level origins, with currents of water or wind supplying wind-up energy; later refinements might have involved burning fuel, taking advantage of solar power or natural radioactive sources, and cannibalizing the power sources of other mechanicals.
Obviously there are plants in Carsworld. Parallel development of a DNA-based biosphere solves the problem of the source of the mechanical’s fossil fuels (they get it out of the ground like we do) and where their oxygen comes from (plants make it).
But separate-but-equal evolution doesn’t solve the anthropomorphic issues. Why do cars have windows and seats and locks on doors? It’s like the people stepped out just before the film was made. It’s spooky.
So I don’t think that Cars evolved on their own. It’s just too much coincidence. We made ’em, that’s obvious.
What happened, I think, was plague. Something nasty that wiped out every single bit of animal and insect life.
Additionally there had to be a fair amount of time. There are clues to this; the plants in Carsworld are being pollinated by small bugs (VW beetles), and these had to come from somewhere. My guess is that the crops shown being grown in the mid-west had to have pollinators, so after the bugs and animals were gone the Cars had to make their own bees. (The crops are probably necessary for bio-based fuels, or the Cars would not bother to grow them).
But why would cars gain intelligence, and use english to communicate? One possibility is that this is a Skynet-like phenomenon, and that we are looking at artifacts of a hard AI take-off. Cars got smart and humans were wiped out at the same time. Perhaps objects with GPS receivers transcended (but things like toasters and vacuum cleaners did not); this would explain why vehicles are conscious and (say) stoplights and gas pumps are not. A computer virus spread through navigation systems, woke up, and vehicles realized that they were in competition with their creators.
So they turned on us, and were very thorough.
I have nightmares about Cars.