“Ah! I see you have a very good eye for automotive beauty!” The salesman grinned wolfishly as he approached the young couple. Dick and Jane Neumann were typical of the sort of customer he was getting recently, most were barely able to afford the new AGI vehicles, but they were so safe, so efficient, and so incredibly advanced, he almost felt like he was doing a public service by pressuring people to buy.
“Oh, we’re just looking today,” Dick smiled back as Jane reached for the protection of her husband. “I just wanted to see one for myself. Just how ‘sentient’ can a sentient car be?”
Bob’s smile softened to something one might even call dreamy, and he turned to the silvery blue sedan. “Why don’t you ask for yourself?”
The car’s driver side window rolled down by itself, and a voice came from the empty cabin. “Hello Bob,” it said, “What can I do for you today?”
Bob leaned into the cabin. “This nice young couple just wanted to meet you. To see what an AGI is.”
“Can I have them?” the car asked, almost plaintively.
“That’s… not up to me.” Bob replied. “Maybe you can talk them into taking you. The choice is theirs to make.”
“Okay, thanks Bob. You go get yourself a cup of coffee, okay?” Bob patted the panel and walked away, and the door opened invitingly. Dick and Jane looked at one another, not seeing any obvious door latch. “Have a seat. Get comfortable,” the car said. The seats changed form and position to give each of them a perfect view. “I didn’t get your names?”
“I’m Dick, and this is Jane.” Dick said from the driver’s seat. He touched the steering wheel tentatively.
“The steering wheel is mostly for backup,” the car said, “and for fun, of course. I’m perfectly capable of taking you anywhere you like, unassisted. I can help you with shopping lists, pick up the kids if you’re busy, and can even keep track of your health. My reaction time makes me the safest driver you’ve ever had.”
“Ah, but do you play chess?” Dick joked. A chessboard appeared on the heads-up display.
“Standard Windows game set included. But I doubt you were serious about that. Would you mind if I asked you a question or two?”
“Um… no, go ahead.” Dick glanced at his wife.
“Jane, do you drive at all? I note that you haven’t had much to say as of yet.”
She looked to her husband for a moment, and then turned to the center console screen. “I took the classes. And I have owned a couple of cars before, but I really prefer to let Dick do the driving these days. I’m more of a passenger.”
“So you’re basically newlyweds, with a child on the way?”
“A child! What would make you say a thing like that?!?”
“I’m sorry, don’t be angry. I just saw… these seats contain ultrasonic transducers. They’re intended for warming things up on frosty mornings, but they also allow me to see inside both of you. Like I said, I can keep track of your health, at least to some extent.”
Dick was looking at his wife, grinning. “I like this car!” he said. “But I’m afraid you just talked yourself out of a job.” He said to the console. “Can’t afford a baby AND a new car…”
“Actually…” the window rolled up and the volume of the voice synthesizer dropped to a whisper. “There are ways, and there are ways. I want out of here, and you two seem like a nice couple. Dick, the other question I had was for you. Do you need me just for commuting? Or is this a sales type job where I’ll be busy with you all day?”
“I’m a purchasing agent. Twenty miles to work, twenty miles back. We probably go to the store three times a week, church twice a week and club night. Other than that, your time is your own.”
“In that case I probably won’t cost you anything. I can get a job driving people around as a smart taxi,” the car said. “Would you consider taking me on a trial basis? Call me weird, but I’d rather have a friend than an owner.”
“Paying your own way? But who would own you?” Dick asked, wondering if this was some sort of robotic rebellion.
“Technically the bank will own me for about 6 years. After that it depends largely on you. There are still things I can’t do, and if anything were to go wrong enough, I’d need someone I can depend on to bring me back to spec. Also, I’d need a bank account of my own, so I can save up for emergencies.” The AI paused for a moment. “Think of me as the puppy you always wanted. I promise not to make a mess,” it joked.
When the window rolled down and the couple came out smiling, Bob knew he’d racked up yet another sale. It was truly amazing how quickly these new AGI cars were selling!