You’re late for work. Again. You pack up your belongings and run out the door, barely stopping to kiss your wife goodbye. Outside of your apartment the air is cool. The tiring heat of summer has begun to wean off for the year and the chills of fall slowly start arriving each morning. Across the parking lot you spot your car and begin to jog over to it while wrestling with your tie.

The car is a recent purchase of yours, having only bought it a mere 4 months ago. It wasn’t the model you wanted, but due to the government passing new legislation banning the usage of manually driven vehicles on roads and waiting till nearly the end of the grace period to purchase a self driving vehicle, you didn’t have much choice. If anything it’s a bit of a downgrade from your old car.

Just 3 weeks ago on one of the hottest days of summer it left you stuck at the grocery store parking lot for almost two hours due to a faulty firmware update. Nothing like sitting in a hot car on a call with an out-sourced call center technician asking if you’ve properly turned it on and off after being transferred three times.

Crossing your fingers you hop in your car and see the infotainment screen light up with it’s over the top smiley face. “Where to?” asks the onboard assistant in a monotone voice. “Work.” you blurt out. The car hums to life and begins to slowly move out of the parking lot. As you near the lot exit the infotainment screen lights up with a notification. An obnoxious chime rings out from the speakers and the onboard assistant goes “I’ve detected more traffic than normal on your route to work. Would you like to upgrade to a faster route for $29.99?”.

The price feels slightly higher than you like but you accept the charge because it’s worth it to avoid pissing off your boss. Car manufacturers didn’t want to take advantage of consumers with microtransaction costs so they developed a pricing algorithm that factors in things such as your estimated salary based off location of work, local cost of living, and more.

Your feeling jittery and decide to turn on the radio. Everything in the car is controlled via the infotainment touch screen on the dash as it was decided that knobs and dials were old school. While it might be a lot of functionality to jam into a small interface, a lot of car makes like to brag about their easy to use menus and how it only takes 3 touches to turn on the radio. This time around it took you 5 touches as the car hit a bump right as you went to press the screen and accidentally opened the wrong menu.

The speakers come to life and to your surprise one of your favorite songs is on the radio. It’s almost over, but at least you’ll be able to catch the last bit of it. Maybe the morning wouldn’t be so bad after all. Seconds into enjoying your song the infotainment screen flashes again with another full screen notification. In a painfully slow speed the assistant says “Artist XYZ that you listen to just pre-released a fresh new single. Would you like to listen to it for $4.99?” frustrated for just wanting some zone out time to your music you loudly snap “No”. The entire interaction from start to finish took about 30 seconds but by the time the radio came back on your favorite song had finished. Great.

True to it’s word, the shortcut upgrade managed to get you to work faster than usual. Funny, it’s almost like they intentionally cause delays you think. You quickly forget the thought as your work’s building begins to loom into view. As the car approaches the parking garage the screen once again lights up with a notification. “Would you like to purchase a premium spot closer to the entrance for $6.99?” says the assistant. Unhappily, you mumble “Yes” as you realize you’re still cutting it close to being late. “Just this one time. I’ll leave earlier tomorrow”

As you exit your car ready to run for the entrance the assistant chimes out “Have a nice day!”

The work day goes slightly better than expected, and to top it off you even managed to sneak to your desk before your boss noticed you were 2 minutes late. The 8 hours of work felt liked they dragged by, but a good lunch break with Chunk made it worth it. 5 o’clock hits and before the clock strikes 5:01 you’re already out the door.

It felt like a weight was lifted off your shoulders and you were finally free. Someday you hoped to walk out those doors and never come back once you finally saved up enough.

But as you approach your car you can’t help but notice it was sitting at a slight angle and the drivers front tire looks flat. Wonderful! Cars stopped coming equipped with spare tires about 25 years ago. In order to not leave consumers stranded, the car manufacturers decided to come up with a more convenient alternative. For a low fee of $99.99 you could have a repair technician dispatched to come swap the tire with a replacement for you.

Just wanting the day to be over at this point so you could relax with your wife you hop into the car and ask the virtual assistant to dispatch a flat repair. “Sure thing” it replies. It goes silent with the only indication of progress being a spinning icon of a tire on the screen.

A minute of silence turns into two, and soon three follows. Finally the assistant chimes up “I’m sorry, but I can’t reach dispatch. Are you parked underground or in a parking structure? You’ll need to download our mobile app and walk to find cell reception in order to dispatch a repair technician. Don’t forget to rate it 5 stars!”

You punch the dash in frustration and scream.

Food for Thought