There was a flash fiction contest this holiday weekend over at Janet Reid’s blog. Again, I entered but didn’t get recognized, which again is okay. My hopes were not as high this time, and the winning entries were amazing!
Janet was giving away a slew of books by various authors this time, and took the five required words from some of the book titles: X, BONE, DEVIL, SLIP, 100. I didn’t have as much time to work on my entry as usual (Friday was booked solid until after midnight, and I had to drive 5 hours on Saturday), but heard a lot on the radio about the recent revelation of the first fatality in a car crash involving an autonomously-controlled car. It was not a fully self-driving vehicle, but one of the ones with autopilot, where on a highway you can set it to maintain speed, stay in the center of your lane, and avoid obstacles ahead. This vehicle didn’t see a large truck turning left in front of it and drove right into the truck without the brakes ever being applied. The best guess at this point is that the video processing system didn’t see the truck because it was white and there wasn’t enough contrast with the bright sky, the radar system didn’t see it because its radar was angled low and went under the truck, and the human driver, who was supposed to be watching and ultimately in control of the vehicle, didn’t see it because he wasn’t paying attention (there’s reason to think he was watching a movie on the console). This news item inspired the story I wrote.
Software Update, submitted 7/2/16
Autopilot AI development group
Bugfix tracking slip 2016-07-02
Software patch ready for download
EV-I license no. 97982269
priority software overrides
set condition-check tab ON
IF bright sunlight
THEN image contrast adjustment +100
IF truck traffic present
THEN radar angle adjustment +20
IF driver accepts terms
THEN begin autopilot
IF driver hands on wheel
AND driver eyes on road
THEN engage lane following
IF driver watching movie
THEN stop the f***ing car
I like how unusual this is and enjoy the idea of a story in software. This isn’t actually a story, though, since there’s no progression, nothing really changing or happening, and I didn’t really expect it to win any notice. The burst of profanity at the end cracked me up in this context (yes, I laugh at my own jokes), but it obviously didn’t crack Janet up. She did say that there were a lot of entries this time that she didn’t get, but most of them were related to gaming so I don’t think that’s why my entry wasn’t selected.I think it just wasn’t up to par. That’s how it goes sometimes.