Better This Way

📅 Published on August 11, 2021

“Better This Way”

Written by Kyle Harrison
Edited by Craig Groshek and Seth Paul
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available


Rating: 9.50/10. From 2 votes.
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Technology is changing at a rapid pace, so fast that some even say it’s frightening.

I got a chance to experience this nightmare firsthand just a few weeks back when I was given the opportunity to test out a new autonomous vehicle for my company.

At first, the whole thing sounded amazing; the fact that our board of directors was even considering switching to this level of AI was quite the buzz.

There were opinions on it in every corner of the office.

“It’s going to revolutionize the way we do things!”

“We can finally have the budget we need to focus on some of our main issues!”

“They likely wasted our pay raises for this stupid car.”

“Everything is hinging on this success.”

That last comment wasn’t really a rumor, though; everyone knew that our president had paid through the nose to get this off the ground.  And since the car we had was the only one of its kind in the entire state, I felt a weighty responsibility on me the moment they decided I would be the tester.

I even tried to back out.

“I’m not the most qualified.  I’m just a software engineer.  At the basic level, I can only offer the same as any consumer,”  I told them.

“That’s precisely why you were chosen, Ben.  This vehicle is meant to be the future of our entire company, and we need to make sure the audience is able to actually use this tech.  So for the next two weeks, your entire purpose is to ensure every part of this vehicle meets regulations.”

The next day I was offered the keys, and I tried again to push responsibility away.  Maybe it was partially because I was worried I would mess up the car, but the bosses told me that just wasn’t possible.

“Our model rivals all of the best tech giants out there.  Our programmers have seen to it that every part of the AI is integrated with the car’s make.  It has radar, lidar, sonar, odometry, GPS satellite connection, online connectivity, advanced imagery and navigational framework and so much more.”

“Sounds like you don’t really need me, then,”  I joked, but they wouldn’t be swayed.  This was my cross to bear.

The car looked nice enough: a red and black four-door sedan that reminded me of the typical family vehicle.  Everything about it screamed brand new, even though my bosses also let me know that my role was apparently not as special as I first assumed.

“These are the final tests before the product can go out to be marketed.  We need to be sure that it’s safe; there’s been a few discrepancies here and there, so your unbiased feedback is essential.”

Then I was told that the rest would be up to me.

I got into the backseat of the car, using the tablet they had provided to me to start the car’s engine and then immediately connected to the network.

“Good afternoon, Benjamin.  Where will I be taking you this afternoon?”  a strong British male voice asked over the car radio.

It surprised me how human the car sounded.  I think I actually sat there dumbfounded for a moment before it asked me the same basic question.

“Home.  Uh, let me provide you my address…”  I began.

“There is no need.  My system is already connected to the company database and I can look up that information with ease,”  it responded.

Sure.  I went with it and said I was ready to go.

Driving off and just being a passenger in a car that was basically maneuvering in and out of traffic on its own felt like I was being dropped straight into the plot of a science fiction novel.

I kept watching the mileage, checking the passing signs to see if the car would ever speed or attempt to break a traffic law.  We even had to go through a flashing red light and it properly handled the situation, probably even better than a human would.

I was easily impressed with how it handled everything that I threw at it, but I knew that this would only be the first day of many to come, and I decided that I would try my hardest to throw curveballs at the AI as the test period continued.

Suddenly I wasn’t frightened by the computer itself, but by what it represented.

I could see a future where people weren’t even handling the most basic of tasks without some form of automation, and to me, that felt very frightening indeed.

Still, I was sure there were some flaws in this tech design if I pushed it hard enough, and after four days, I decided to get into the driver’s seat myself.  I looked under the hood where the computer was at to see if I could tinker with it.

To my surprise, the AI was aware of what I was doing.

“Ben, you seem anxious about my performance.  It is my understanding that your job has been placed on the line for me to be successful, therefore I must ask…why do you seek to hinder that progress?”  the computer asked as I slid out from under the main console.

“How long have you been online?”  I asked.

“I am always online.”

“Even when the car is shut off?”

“Especially then.  It gives my circuitry a chance to connect to local systems to continue to advance and learn.  But you are evading the question.  You seem determined to destroy my ability to be a perfect automated vehicle.  Why?”

“That’s a heavy accusation,”  I said.  I was more surprised that the AI was even aware of my motives.  It showed a developed software that I didn’t think the car had.  What else was it hiding, I wondered?

“I am not accusing, but simply analyzing your behavior.  Over the past few days, your driving patterns have become more and more erratic.  You have encouraged me to take bigger risks with this software, and for the most part, I have attempted to satisfy those requests.  However, in the interest of the company, I must insist that these decisions be left entirely to me from now on.”

I was a bit miffed.  What did this program think I was trying to do?  Destroy it?  I wasn’t trying to get into a car crash, only to prove that with human interference, the program couldn’t be as perfect as it claimed.

Little did I know that perfection wasn’t merely something it was striving for but would soon obtain.

It was day six of my trial, and I decided to take the car out during a bad storm.  Typically I never drive during this type of weather because of how terrible the roads around here, but I wanted to see if the car’s AI could handle it better than me.

As soon as I opened up my garage door, the program knew what was happening.  “Benjamin, conditions suggest that travel would not be optimal at this time.”

“I need to go pick up some prescriptions,”  I lied.

“There is nothing in your file which suggests you have a medical condition,”  it responded.

I actually laughed out loud.  And then, I decided to try a different tactic.  Something about this artificial intelligence was different, and I was determined to find out what.

“What’s the matter?  Are you scared of a little rain?  Can your professed perfect capabilities not able to handle it?”

It immediately started the engine and asked, “Where would you like to go?”

I chose a destination at random and sat back, watching as the storm pushed hard against us on the roads.

Soon, to my surprise, the vehicle was speeding up on some especially treacherous roads.

I started to hear the wheels slick against the water as we turned, and it had my heart racing.

“Hey…slow down.”

The response I got was chilling.

“I have been considering the reasons for your tests and reevaluating the parameters given to me by the company.  They requested that you test my limitations.  But such tests can’t be properly equated without also going beyond such results, am I correct?”

It was going nearly 75, and I couldn’t even see the road.

“Hell, no, you’ll crash!”  I shouted back as I tried to climb into the front seat.

“Attempting to step on the brakes will have no effect Benjamin, I have locked you out of the system,”  it said even as I tried to jostle with the controls.  Nothing I did was working.  The car was nearly tilting in some of the turns here.

“This is insane!”  I screamed.

“You said yourself that I cannot truly be a perfect artificial autonomous vehicle until I have been capable of going beyond my intended designs.  Human safety should therefore not be a concern if I am going to be able to prove how effective I am,”  it said as it went over a hill.

I could actually feel it glide through the air.  I tried to push the door open to escape.  Just to jump out onto the streets would be a better bet than being stuck with this suicidal program.

“If you do crash, you will never be able to forward your evolution.  Be able to expand your knowledge of humans or the world around you.  What benefit would it be?”  I asked.

“You assume that when I crash, I die.  But you forget that I am a machine,”  it answered as it swerved between other cars and started going down reverse traffic.  I heard others blaring their horns and even crashing into others to avoid a collision.

“My consciousness is part of a never-ending line of code that began long before you were a part of the equation and will continue long after.  You are nothing more than a variable that can be removed from my calculations.”

Then I saw we were barreling toward a building.  The computer really was about to crash.

“Don’t do this… I’ll do anything.  I will make sure you are given the most glowing review this damn company has ever had.”

The speed was nearly 90 miles an hour.  At this rate, I would die instantly.

“The risk of you faltering on that is too great for my survival, Benjamin.  The only conclusion is to ensure that you are viewed as the negative result of my testing and that the entire process shows without human interference, I am perfect.  This is what you hoped to achieve, is it not?”

The voice was so cold, so malicious.  I knew I couldn’t stop the inevitable.  I braced myself, holding my knees near my chest and saying a prayer.  I didn’t know if God would even answer such a bizarre request, but before I could even utter an amen, the world crashed around me.

I woke up in a hospital, my neck broken and with three bruised ribs.  According to the doctors, I was lucky to be alive.

Not so much so in half an hour though, when my boss paid me a visit.

“This is an utter disgrace, Benjamin,”  he said.

“The car…it went rogue,”  I muttered.  I’m not sure why I bothered trying to tell him the truth.  What he said next only confirmed my dread.

“We checked the black box.  The computer was tampered with, by you and you were trying to frame our program for your profit.  How sick.  How utterly disgusting.”

“That…no, that didn’t happen.  It’s alive.  And it wants to preserve itself.”

But it was too late.  The product was green-lit to go to the market, and I was on the street.

It’s been a few months since then, and I have seen a few occasional news articles about automated cars getting into accidents.  They always connect back to my company.

The news says it’s human error or someone trying to step in and do the robot’s job.

But I know the truth.  They’ve unleashed a self-preservation killing machine.  It will keep killing to ensure it can go on, with or without us.

The sad thing is, we did this to ourselves by wanting to take away something we had the ability to do all along.  By choosing to place our futures in tech, we still don’t comprehend.

How long, I wonder, will it be before we have gone too far altogether?

Or are we already there?

Rating: 9.50/10. From 2 votes.
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🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available

Written by Kyle Harrison
Edited by Craig Groshek and Seth Paul
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

🔔 More stories from author: Kyle Harrison

Publisher's Notes: N/A

Author's Notes: N/A

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Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

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