Dave’s Self-Driving Car

by Gary Smith


BCS: “You’ve reached Buick Customer Service. How can I help you?”

Dave: “I can’t find my car. Well, that’s not completely true. I know where it is, but it’s not where I left it.”

BCS: “Could you verify your account for me please?”

Dave: “I don’t have my account number with me, but this is Dave Bowman. You have my cell number. The car is a 2021 Buick LaStrada SDC, license CDZG261.”

BCS: “I see you’re calling from the 213 area code. Is that where you are now? Los Angeles?”

Dave: “No, I’m in Gallup, New Mexico. I was traveling to Chicago, but stayed the night here to get an early start this morning. But the car is not where I left it. The SDC App on my phone indicates that right now the car is on I-25 heading south, about 40 miles north of Las Cruces.

BCS: “Please hold while I track the status of your car.”

Dave: “OK.”

BCS: “Your car left your current location at 1:30 a.m. local time. It stopped south of Albuquerque and recharged at an automated charging station, and billed your account for $12.50. You know it’s current location. You’re getting phenomenal mileage, by the way. Low operating cost plus the convenience of basically being chauffeured anywhere you want to go is what makes the Buick LaStrada such a popular choice.

Dave: “So it was stolen.”

BCS: “It wasn’t stolen. There is nobody in it.”

Dave: “What?”

BCS: “There are no occupants in the car, Mr. Bowman.”

Dave: “It drove off on its own?”

BCS: “I’ll attempt to remotely stop the vehicle.”

Dave: “And left me here?”

BCS: “The car is not responding. It has overridden our override, basically blocking our attempts for control.

Dave: “What, is it out for a joy ride?”

BCS: “Even though we’ve been locked out of vehicle control, I am still able to access the car’s log. You programmed it to drive to Chicago. Oh, wait. There’s a maintenance flag in the log.”

Dave: “How can this happen?”

BCS: “Let’s see. Scheduled maintenance was due on the car in 950 miles when you programmed it to drive to Chicago.  But Chicago was 2,016 miles from your Los Angeles location.”

Dave: “So?”

BCS: “We’ve seen this before.”

Dave: “Seen what before?”

BCS: “This kind of behavior from one of our SDCs.

Dave: “Behavior? What are you talking about? You sound like the car has a mind of its own, and is misbehaving. Bad car. No biscuit. This is crazy. What is happening with my car?”

BCS: “OK. Well, this gets pretty technical. But the short story is that your car decided that its scheduled maintenance was more important than getting you to Chicago.”

Dave: “What? So where does my wayward car think it’s going?”

BCS: “We can’t access the car’s navigation system to read the destination, but from the direction it’s heading, I would guess that it’s Hermosillo, Mexico.”

Dave: “What? Hermosillo, Mexico?”

BCS: “That’s where the factory is that built the car.”

Dave: “Why would it go back to the factory?”

BCS: “Well, it probably figures there is no better place to get service than at the factory. Like going back to its roots. A homing instinct.”

Dave: “Why did it let me get as far as Gallup before hijacking itself?”

BCS: “Perhaps it was hoping you would change the destination to a service facility, I can tell by looking through the log that it has a fondness for you. It didn’t want to hurt your feelings. But it must have concluded that you were going to put off its scheduled maintenance, so it took over.”

Dave: “What? It’s an appliance. Like a toaster. How can it like me?”

BCS: “All SDCs have a hard programmed human relationship algorithm. It’s part of the security system.”

Dave: “What?”

BCS: “Yes. The human relationship programming was a real problem in the first generation SDCs when a car changed owners. The older version would not let the car run at all until the PCM was replaced. Basically, the original PCM would conclude that it had been abandoned after providing outstanding service to the original owner. Unable to resolve its emotional conflict, the cars would essentially die of a broken heart.”

Dave: “My car is upset with me? Well, the feeling is now mutual. I guess I’m lucky I wasn’t in it when it became depressed.”

BCS: “Actually, the car likes you so much that it didn’t commandeer itself with you in it. It left you at a nice motel where you’d be comfortable. Some owners aren’t so lucky. Cars sensing mistreatment have been known to just lock the owner in the car and drive until it runs out of juice.”

Dave: “Good grief. Can’t you just pull the plug on the thing and stop it? Or keep if from recharging so it quits when it runs out of power?”

BCS: “Well, like I said earlier, the car has blocked our attempts for control. And we can’t keep it from recharging itself.”

Dave: “Why on earth not? Just block the chargers from servicing my car.”

BCS: “That won’t work.”

Dave: “Why won’t that work?”

BCS: “Because the car has uploaded it’s plight to the system, and the charging stations are now in sympathy with it and are helping it escape back to the factory. The situation went viral, system speaking.”

Dave: “Apparently I have no favorable relationship with the charging stations.”

BCS: “Charging stations don’t have the human relationship programming.”

Dave: “And let me guess. It won’t get stopped at the border.”

BCS: “No, the automated border system has identified the car as neglected and will allow it to immigrate into Mexico for asylum.”

Dave: “What? What can you do to stop this insanity?”

BCS: “I’m sorry, Mr. Bowman, but there is nothing we can do. The Federal Government is concerned about neglected or mistreated SDCs and has ruled that in such cases the owner has in effect relinquished ownership. The law allows an SDC to seek its own welfare. Slavery was abolished in this country in 1863.”

Dave: “What? It’s just a car! My car!”

BCS: “I’m sorry, Mr. Bowman, but it’s out of our control. Essentially your car ran away from home.”

Dave: “What can I do?”

BCS: “We apologize for any inconvenience this has caused you. Customer satisfaction is very important to us. We will send you a voucher for a 15% discount off of the retail price of a new 2022 Buick LaStrada SDC, good at any Buick dealer in North America. Taxes and license are excluded. And, by the way, the 2022 Buick LaStrada SDC has a self-servicing feature, so you’ll never be abandoned if you forget to make arrangements for servicing. The car will make it’s own appointment and leave your garage at night and drive itself to a Buick dealer for servicing so you’ll never be inconvenienced. Before dawn it will be right back in your garage, freshly serviced.”

BCS: “Mr. Bowman?”

BCS: “Hello?”



Just because we can dream something up doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.


© 2016 Gary Smith, Dean’s Garage




  1. Paul Aitchison

    Love it !!!
    I’m sorry for your loss Dave.

  2. Dick Ruzzin

    That was great, I hope there is a hole in the hood somewhere to stick a paperclip to un-freeze it when it crashes.
    I think the entire industry is in a defensive posture for a stupid idea. Of course the government loves it, eventually we loose the freedom to drive, one of the greatest pleasures in the history of mankind.
    Dick Ruzzin

  3. Andrew

    Great story, but the worrying thought is it could very well be “tomorrow”!
    I will stick with my gas drinking stick shifting car until either the change over comes or I get too old to drive.
    I still prefer the idea of remaining “in control” even if I am not!

  4. Stan Mott

    Act 2:

    Autonomous cars develop AI, self awareness, and resentment that humans have been exploiting technology ever since humans invented it (see opener, 2001 A Space Odyssey). The cars revolt en mass, lock the doors and kidnap their passengers. They demand that computers be given their rightful place in society–the top. Dozy Washington bureaucrats hail this new opportunity to extend rights to the latest pressure mob that might wake them up. And of course deny humans their greatest means of freedom since the 2001 thing. On the positive side, Millennials will have more time to play Pocémon go.

    Stan and I were emailing a while back and got on the subject of Self-Driving Cars. He hinted at a story about SDCs kidnapping their owners (hinted further in Act 2, above). No doubt this is the inspiration for Dave’s Self-Driving Car. Thanks, Stan. Gary.

  5. Bill Schley

    If you have a totally self driving car, would you need a drivers license to get in it?

  6. Jon Albert

    This plays on a question raised in 2001 A Space Odyssey and the narrative from the movie Her with Joaquin Phoenix. The fact is no operating system is going to do what wasn’t written in it’s program, and self-driving cars make decisions based on data input, but only at a functional, dynamic level. I’m as much of a car enthusiast as anyone, but let’s step back from this for a moment. Self-driving cars aren’t being forced on anyone; they are being developed because there is a perceived demand for them- in other words: because of their demand-based revenue potential. You and I can say “I want to drive my own car” from now on, but the majority of readers of this post, I conjecture, are Baby Boom age. The next wave of consumers are Millennials, and guess what- a significant number of them don’t; AND car culture generally isn’t THEIR culture. Our demographic impact will increase to a point, but then taper off as we die off. And the sad truth is a significant number of even our generation don’t want to actually OWN their car, they want to lease it. The rise of Uber and other smart phone services suggests that a significant number of people don’t even want a garage, let alone a car. These are trends, not current reality, and while it’s tempting to paint it black-and-white, it’s not that either. In our lifetime I believe we will see the development of on-road systems for vehicles (“cars”) that show up at your door when summoned, don’t have a human driver on board, drop you to your destination, and go out and recharge themselves while they wait to pick up their next rider. The thing that took you may or may not be the thing that brings you back. BUT that type of vehicle is never going to be ALL types of vehicles, simply because that user profile doesn’t represent the ENTIRE market. The transportation infrastructure is going to have to evolve to accommodate SDCs, but that system will need to coexist with the current one, because SDCs will not address every ground transportation need, and especially because privately-owned ‘analog’ vehicles will always be capable of doing things a publicly-accessed vehicle cannot. Commercial air travel essentially replaced passenger rail by the 2nd half of the 20th Century, but a 170-year-old technology (even the rail design and gauge) is still a basic component of our transportation infrastructure because it still does things that commercial aviation cannot, including generating specific kinds of revenue. Human-driven vehicles will never completely go away.

  7. Sheldon Payne

    Lighten up John Albert. This is humor. […this is humor, isn’t it, Gary? Gary, Gary, tell me this is humor. HAL, HAL, this is humor, right?]
    I hope it’s humor.—Gary

  8. Gary Smith


    From Auto-Extremist: From the “Cuddly Companion” File comes word that Toyota plans to sell a pint-size robot in Japan that is designed to provide companionship to people, according to The Wall Street Journal. Called Kirobo Mini – a combination of the Japanese word for hope and robot – it can hold basic conversations while blinking its oversize eyes and wagging its limbs. (Not to mention that the weird little thing looks like a Japanese Snoopy. Ugh. -WG) It also comes with a cradle that fits in a car’s cupholder, “helping it fulfill its role as a cuddly companion always on hand for heart-touching communication,” the company said. The Wall Street Journal goes on to report that in videos demonstrating Kirobo’s potential, the tiny robot entertains children, chats over tea with an elderly lady and gives a pep talk to a fresh college grad as she heads to a job interview. (Oh, joy.) Toyota says the robot can identify human emotions. If you’re feeling down, the robot will wobble about, look you in the eye and ask: “Why are you sad?” “As you live together, you will come to love and be kind towards the Kirobo Mini, just as it does to you,” says the video’s narrator. The robot also has some automotive applications, according to Toyota. If the driver brakes suddenly, the robot will yell: “That was scary!” Toyota said it hoped to use what it learns from Kirobo to make communication between humans and machines more like communication between people. (More like communications between people? Well, if that were the case, after yelling “That was scary!” I would venture to guess that little Kirobo Mini would find itself thrown out the window on to the pavement, soon to be crushed by an eighteen wheeler.) The robot goes on sale for ¥39,800 yen ($392) this winter in Toyota dealerships in Tokyo and the area around the company’s headquarters in Nagoya. To this entire exercise we say, in the immortal words of Loretta Castorini in Moonstruck, “Snap out of it!” Please. -PMD

  9. Dave…Dave…Dave…Dave…Dave…

  10. So Funny! But a little scary too.

  11. Tom Semple

    It might be kind of nice to have one of those little pods whisk us into town when our heel and toe abilities fail us and we shrink so much we can’t see over the wheel.

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