Fun fact about Spider-Man: he’s a hero when swinging mid-air, but an absolute menace on the road. In the Marvel universe, there’s been a longstanding tradition of Peter Parker being a truly heinous motorist — between relying on New York’s robust subway system and his trusty web shooters, he’s had no reason to obtain a driver’s license. Until now.
Spider-Man: Homecoming acknowledges Parker’s lead footedness via some cunning product placement. About two-thirds into the film [SPOILER ALERT], Spidey, in lieu of any tall buildings from which to swing off of in pursuit of the Vulture, steals Flash Thompson’s brand new Audi TTS Roadster and attempts, erratically, to gun it down the street. As New York University prof/game developer Naomi Clark points out on Twitter, the scene more or less falls in line with Spidey’s history of being a shoddy wheelman.
Classic example from '79 (after he graduates from college) — Sue Storm tries to get Spidey to drive during a car chase but he's terrified pic.twitter.com/64j5pHq3ve
— Naomi Clark (@metasynthie) July 10, 2017
But where Homecoming diverges from the Spidey canon is in the ephemeral marketing around the film. In an Audi ad presumably meant to exist within the MCU, Tom Holland goes where no Spider-Man’s gone before: driving school. We see Parker waiting at the Wheel Teach Ya academy while watching a civilian-shot YouTube video of his besuited self crashing Flash’s ride into a bunch of trash cans. From there, Peter jumps into a “prototype” Audi R8 he borrowed from his “friend” Tony and proceeds to
take bomb his driving exam. Luckily, every time Parker almost eats it, the semi-autonomous A8 steps in and takes the wheel.
When Parker takes his eyes off the road to squabble with his instructor, the car automatically brakes before they can rear-end another vehicle. When he lifts his hands off the wheel after activating “Audi AI,” the A8 takes over with its intelligent auto-steering. Miraculously, Peter passes the exam after activating the car’s auto-parallel parking feature — which doesn’t require him to lift a damn finger.
Spidey traditionalists are sure to scoff at the idea of Parker finally obtaining his license, but there’s one thing they can’t deny: this new A8 packs some Avengers-worthy technology. Officially unveiled last week in Barcelona (its unofficial unveiling was in Homecoming), it’s the first production car to reach Level 3 autonomy, which will make it one of the most highly automated cars on the road once it goes on sale next year.
Among the A8’s other autonomous features: the “AI traffic jam pilot,” meaning the car can handle driving duties in slow-moving traffic at up to 60 kilometers per hour. It will take over acceleration, braking, steering, and starting from a dead-stop, all while you catch up on your emails (or, whatever, play Pokémon GO). (In Homecoming, we see Spidey’s handler, Happy Hogan, demonstrate this feature by taking his hands off the wheel, mid-traffic jam, while chauffeuring Parker in the A8). What’s more, Audi will accept all legal responsibility when the car is driving itself. This puts the German automaker way ahead of competitors like Mercedes-Benz, Tesla, and Cadillac when it comes to the autonomous driving assist game.
Sure, we aren’t used to seeing Spidey tool around in a semi self-driving car, but then again, we aren’t used to seeing a hot Aunt May either. The times, they are a changin’.