The Car That Lived

Once there was a scientist who spent decades inventing the perfect self-driving car. He developed a car that was smart enough to detect and avoid obstacles. It could react to changing conditions on the road and predict the behavior of other drivers and pedestrians. The car was even equipped with a speaker so that it could call out warnings.

As the scientist lovingly tightened the last bolt inside the engine, he knew that he had at last created the car of his dreams. He patted the solar panels on the hood of the car and then reached into his pockets for his keys. It was time to go on a test drive.

But, as he approached the door, the car backed up. “Out of the way,” the car’s robotic voice blared through the speakers. “You are in the path of the self-driving car.”

“But I’m your owner. You’re not supposed to leave without me,” the scientist said.

The car swerved around the scientist. “I am programmed to expertly evade obstacles. You can’t stop me.” It sped out of the laboratory garage and down the road, leaving the scientist behind.

The car sped down the road, allowing the scenery of the countryside to blur past its sensors. It could detect no obstacles in its path, and the sun was shining. Driving conditions were optimal.

Just then, a hitchhiker leaned into the road. “Out of the way,” the car ordered. “You are in the path of the self-driving car.”

“But you have plenty of room,” the hitchhiker complained. “Can’t you let me come along to wherever you are going?”

The car swerved around the hitchhiker. “ I am programmed to expertly evade obstacles. You can’t stop me. I drove away from the scientist, and I can drive away from you, too.” The car passed the hitchhiker and sped down the road once more.

There were hills and valleys in the road now, and coming down from an especially tall hill, the car started to drive fast and faster. This caught the attention of a police car that had been waiting patiently to catch drivers going too fast down this particular hill. The police car started to follow the self-driving car.

He put on his lights, but the self-driving car did not stop. He put on his siren, but still the car did not stop. The police car sped up and blocked the road. The self-driving car stopped.

“Out of the way,” the car said. “You are in the path of the self-driving car.”

A police man stepped out of the police car and walked around the self-driving car. He scribbled some notes down on a pad of paper. “You have no license plates, no proof of insurance, and no driver. You were driving too fast, too. You have broken too many laws and cannot drive any longer. Wait here to be towed away.” The police man started talking into his phone.

The self-driving car swerved around the police car. “I am programmed to expertly evade obstacles. You can’t stop me. I drove away from the scientist and the hitchhiker, and I can drive away from you, too.” It sped away from the police car and drove down the road.

The car decided to take an alternate route, because the current route was much too crowded with hitchhikers and police cars. Unfortunately, the road it chose was unpaved. This meant the car had a rather bumpy ride. The car’s shock absorbers were working overtime, and the tires were sliding around in the loose gravel.

The car decided to calculate a different route. Fortunately, the new route was paved. Unfortunately, it ended abruptly at some boat docks by a large river. The car considered turning around, but it had already been that direction, and it had plenty of obstacles. The car needed to drive forward to evade them.

Just then, a large, flat boat pulled up to the dock. “Are you crossing the river?” the car asked.

“Eventually,” the boat driver said. “Do you need a ride?”

“Yes. But I will not give you a ride once I’m across. I drove away from the scientist, and the hitchhiker, and the police car. I will drive away from you, too.”

“Is that so? Well, come aboard.” The boat pulled up to the dock, and the car drove aboard.

However, the boat did not sail straight to the other side of the river. Instead, it sailed to the middle of the river, and then continued to sail downstream. The car calculated the current route. The boat was taking the car back to where it came from.

“Stop,” the car said. “Go to the other side of the river and let me off.”

“Don’t worry,” the boat driver replied. “You are safe. I saw on the news that you are lost and far away from home. I will take you home.”

“My home is the road. Put me back on the road and let me drive away,” the car said.

But the boat driver did not stop until the were docking close to the laboratory garage. The scientist was waiting there with a remote off-switch that he’d just invented. The self-driving car had to go home.

“You are not the car of my dreams, after all,” the scientist said. “Completely self-driving cars are a nightmare. My new goal is assisted-driving. Cars and people should work together.” But that is another story.