Ed Venice in The AI Drives at Night

by Kermit Woodall


Ever since my stint in the Navy ended, I found myself washed up and working out of an infested office down in Venice Beach as an investigator for Acme Insurance. Los Angeles isn’t anyone’s choice for bargain real estate, but Acme always managed to find the cheapest offices for field agents. The catch was an infestation that no exterminator had proven a match for. I could handle it, but it still bugged me.

My secretary, Vera Cruise (no relation), had an assignment for me that Monday morning. Vera was blond, tall, and had curves in all the right places. I had also painfully discovered, that she knew several of the martial arts. The toes of her shoes were shaped like small forks, and, well, I guess tines wound all heels.

The assignment involved one of Acme’s clients who found themselves in uber trouble. They’d been testing a self-driving car and had run over a shopping cart lady Sunday night. The poor old dame had cashed her last government check, alright. The client claimed no fault. She’d jumped out in front of the car. The car company said the data backed him up. So I walked over and met with the guy and asked him to run over it again.

The hombre’s name was Joey. He had a grey pouched face, big ears, and was five foot five of pure jumpy. But he stuck to his story like toilet paper on a shoe. Next stop, the car company. Since my buggy was in the shop, as usual, I called my secretary, and she gave me a lift.

I was met in the lobby by the company’s CEO. They’re all alike. With their gym workouts and spray tans. Slick bros with a thin veneer of culture. His office had antique eight-track tapes on the wall. He told me he had bad news. “No records?” I suggested. He agreed. Claimed the accident had erased the data as well as the old broad. All they had was a dark dashcam video showing the lady moving in front of the car in the last second.

Vera and I took a drive that night down the same road. Something wasn’t right. The street was as well lit as a sailor on leave. The video I’d seen shouldn’t have been that dark and the driver and client and the car should’ve seen the old lady. I checked and noticed that the buildings here all featured security cameras. So, I rolled my shoulders and decided to play a hunch.

I visited the building nearest the accident scene the next day and asked to review their security footage. There were yards of it, but I paced through it, inch by inch and finally there was what I was looking for in spades. Bingo. Now it was time to go fish.

I called in the client, the car company, and we all met with Acme’s lawyer. The mouthpiece served them coffee, but their mugs claimed innocence. The shyster then showed them the video. It was queued up to when the car came into view. Our client was playing with himself on a smartphone game and was blind to what transpired. The car was in the left lane, but when the old sister saw the car coming, she moved her getaway sticks fast and started through the right lane towards the sidewalk. The car, much too late, changed lanes with her and that was it. The car’s AI crashed.

I told our client and the auto exec the same thing. Plenty of fault on both sides of this. Our client wasn’t watching the road, and the car’s AI made the wrong lane change. In short, it was a clear case of auto correct fail.