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When The Cars Stopped Listening

by Norman Pidgeon on 2018-12-18

Science fiction meets action and romance in this speculative view of life in a future automated city. It is 2039 and Melbourne, Australia, is the first city in the world to ban human drivers in the greater urban network. Austen Petersen’s company, Intelliga, has been instrumental in achieving the levels of automation required. He is quietly proud of his achievements, until unexplained anomalies start to appear. Cars randomly stopping for no apparent reason.

This is the last thing Austen needs as he struggles to sort out his separated marriage, deal with a disappearing teenage daughter and grapple with bureaucracy over the rules that govern operation of the automated network. His trusty sidekick. Tom, applies his technical prowess to the anomalies, while Austen chases down the politics and relationships. Life becomes even more complicated when Austen is suddenly intrigued by the possibility of a new romantic interest.

Tom hammers away at the theory and almost has the answer, when a far greater emergency arises. Austen must risk life and limb in a bid to regain control of the network and sort out his mess of a life.

A central theme is the potential emergence of intelligence in the system that controls the automated network. However, Tom believes it may be just the logical result of a complex set of rules that govern operation. He applies a number of theories, including classic game tactics from the 1970s and psychology models of human brain operation.

Along the way we gain insights into the emerging challenges of automation ethics that will need to apply to autonomous vehicles. How will they make decisions about the allocation of damage to vehicles and potential injury to occupants?

This is an approachable novel that blends a credible view of an automated future with a human-centred plot of struggle and romantic intrigue. It will appeal to a wide range of readers, including young adults curious about the future.