Autonomous Error

“Technology is a fickle thing, isn’t it? Its a marvel when it works – makes life easier. Helps us be lazy as we get things done. But boy, oh boy! When it goes wrong – it’s a right pain in the arse!”

I wrote this story in answer to the following prompts:

FOWC with Fandango
Your Daily Word Prompt — Scheme
Ragtag Daily Prompt — Summer Fun
Word of the Day Challenge — Healing

Autonomous Error

“Well, there goes the summer fun! Welcome winter, you nasty creature!” Sue groaned at the hail thundering upon the bonnet and windscreen of her little Fiat 500. In the scheme of things, it was December and so hail and the afternoon’s forecast of snow wasn’t unexpected.

At twenty-nine, Sue had been a district nurse for five years. She enjoyed touring the villages, helping and healing those unable to visit the doctor for regular treatment. Her first job of the afternoon was to compel some blood samples from a lady in Buxton village.

With her windshield wipers going flat out against the deluge, she carefully navigated her way along the winding, hedge-lined country lane. Bordered by crop fields and little woodlands it was a pretty agricultural area. At least when one could see where they were going, anyway!

“Bugger this! I’ll have to stop before I crash.” Sue clicked on her left indicator and began to steer toward a field entrance. It was then a roar reached her ears through the hammering hail.

A large silver car burst through the icy downpour like a bullet through curtains. Out-of-control, it created an explosion of twigs and branches as it sheared along the right-hand hedge. Gaining traction, the car veered into the road — straight at Sue’s little Fiat.

“Waa! Shit —No!” Sue mashed the accelerator and swerved her car into the field entrance. Time slowed to match speeds with a sloth. She watched in a panic as the silver bullet race by, missing her car by a hypodermic needle’s breadth. In that instant, she registered a camera on the roof but could see nobody inside. The car hit the hedge, launched into the air and barrel-rolled into the field. Bogged in the mud, it came to a stop, on its wheels, a smoking wreck.

Sue couldn’t stop shaking as she alighted from her car into the unrelenting hail. She took her medical kit from the back seat and made a phone call, “Hello? Yes… I need an ambulance and the police, please!” She had to talk loudly to be heard over the tumultuous weather.

“Sure, Madam. Can you tell me where you are and what happened?”Asked the emergency centre operator.

Sue had rolled up her trousers as she listened. Entering the field, she talked as she walked, “I’m on the Buxton Road; not far from the Coltishall turn off. A silver car lost control in the hail. It nearly killed me as it crashed through a hedge and landed in the field. Luckily it missed me.”

“That’s terrible! I’m glad you’re okay. How many people are in that car?”

“Hold on. I’m just going to check, now. I’m a district nurse. At Least I can help them until the ambulance arrives.” Sue squelched on across the muddy field.

“Yes. The ambulance and police are on the way. Please don’t take any undue risks,” replied the operator sounding concerned.

“I won’t. I…” Sue looked aloft and said a silent ‘thank you’ to the leaden skies. “At last the hail’s stopped.”

Only static answered her this time.

Sue looked at her phone and saw she had no signal now. Thrusting it in her coat pocket with a sigh, she focused on the car and quickly approached it. “There is a camera on the roof. I wonder why?“

Every panel of the bodywork was scratched and bent. The wing mirror, this side, had been torn off leaving just wires exposed.  The front bumper was hanging off, the boot lid was buckled and most of the windows were smashed. It was the smoke pouring from the bonnet which concerned her most.

“Don’t explode, car,” she begged as she peered inside. The cabin was strewn with glass, bits of debris from the hedge and field, and devoid of life. There had been nobody at the wheel when it crashed and no passengers either. “What the hell is this?” Straightening, Sue glanced at the camera on the roof again. Was somebody driving this car remotely? Maybe it was one of those new-fangled driverless cars. Sue knew those were road-legal in Nevada now.

Looking inside again, the district nurse took in the dashboard. She could tell by all the computer screens; this was a high-tech car. Amazingly, although cracked, most of the screens were still lit-up and seemed operational. Sue could see a satellite navigation system, blacked-out camera views, and a control panel on them. Problem was – autonomous cars are illegal in the UK. Even still, someone should still be inside to take control if things went wrong, right?

Sue put her hands on her hips and frowned, feeling most perplexed. “Well, I guess I’ll go back to my car and wait for the —” a thunk and the smallest groan came from the car.

Feeling her heart rate spike with rising apprehension, Sue followed the noise to the rear of the car and the crumpled boot-lid. “Hello? Is somebody in there?”

“H – help me!”

The agonised voice had come from inside. Sue gripped the boot-lid and tried to force it open. It was so badly damaged, it wouldn’t budge. “I can’t open it to get you out!”

“It’s —Argh! A-ask Theodore, the car, to o-open it,” groaned the boot’s occupant.

Sue put her head back into the cockpit of the car. “Theodore, open your boot-lid please,” she asked with a smirk. How weird talking to a car.

Command unrecognised. Please try again, Madam,’ said the car with a posh male voice.

Sue smiled. “At least you were polite about it.”

“It’s also — dumb!” replied the man in the boot between curses of pain. “Theodore, open your bloody trunk please,” he ordered loudly.

Good to hear your voice, Crispin. Trunk opening now,” said the car. “I should warn you, I’ve sustained some serious damage.” It went on.

“Yeah, no shit! Gaaa! Ha- argh!”

Sue heard Crispin overcome by a coughing fit and realised he must have chest injuries. She also heard the car’s mechanics clanking and grinding. The boot-lid, however, failed to move.

Trunk Mechanism failed, sir. The lock has disengaged. Please open it manually.”

A thud rocked the car as Crispin kicked it furiously. “Thanks for nothing,” he groaned.

Sue yanked on the boot-lid but it was futile. “I’m afraid your cars too badly damaged. We’ll have to wait until help arrives to get you out. How did you end up in there anyway?” she asked.

“I brought the car — hoping our government would make it legal to use here —like they are in America. My rotten friends- ahh!  Must have had a scheme against me. When I was —unloading shopping from argh! My regular Jaguar. They grabbed and locked me in the boot and told Theodore to take me — on a drive.”

It was my pleasure to take you for a ride, sir. I do hope you had a good time,” chimed in the car.

“No, I bloody well did not—Argh! My bloody chest is killing me!”

Sue stifled a chuckle. “I’m Sue. Please try to stay calm in there okay?”

“I’m sorry, Theodore’s pissing me off!” Crispin cried out in pain as he kicked the car again.

“Well, this is the first time I’ve heard a man get mad at his talking car! I’m afraid Theodore won’t be taking you anywhere else now. He’ll be a right off.” Sue let out a relieved breath as she watched an ambulance and police Range Rover pull up by her car. “Helps here. They’ll soon have you out.”

“Oh, good. I’ll be able to disown my friends and give them the bill for my car!” Crispin fumed.

It was a further thirty minutes before Crispin was loaded onto a stretcher. Sue helped the paramedics the whole way. She knew he’d suffered broken ribs, a broken arm and a lot of bruising to his head and chest. His colour and vital signs told of possible internal injuries as well. Sue was relieved to see him on his way to the hospital and could only hope he’d recover.

After answering questions for the police, she was allowed to go and continue her work with the most bizarre story to tell. She later heard on the news, the car manufacturers blamed the hail for causing an autonomous error resulting in the car losing control.

Exactly a week after the crash. Crispin hand-delivered her a large bunch of flowers. He’d gotten off lightly and was healing well despite the visible bruising on his face. “I wanted to thank you for rescuing me and apologise for my car nearly killing you. I’d like to take you to dinner at Brand’s Hatch racing circuit. They’re going to be testing autonomous race cars. You’ll be my guest of honour and we can even take a few laps in one of the cars,” he offered with a brilliant white smile.

Sue blanched and shook her head. “Oh no! Thank you for the flowers, Crispin. But after what happened to your car Theodore. the only way a car is taking me anywhere is if I’m doing the driving!”

The End

Thanks for reading my friends and don’t forget there’s always plenty more stories for you in the Short Stories and Short Stories 2 tabs.

Have a great day.

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