Best-selling author Stephen King is best known for his horror novels and short stories, as well as scripts for movies and television. He rarely touches on any themes even remotely resembling science fiction.
His 1973 short story Trucks (published later in his anthology Night Shift) imagines a world where machines come alive and decide that their human overlords’ days of getting their sticky fingers on the steering wheel are over. The story stays within the realms of horror, as it never offers an explanation as to why the vehicles become homicidal. The 1986 film Maximum Overdrive throws a comet into the narrative, which still doesn’t give us much in the way of a plausible cause.
Machines going berserk is a mainstay of science fiction. It has often been speculated that machine overlords are an eventuality, and our survival will be at their good graces.
With the advent of self-driving vehicles, the world has taken another step towards the world seen in Trucks. A CNN article (http://money.cnn.com/2015/05/06/autos/self-driving-truck/index.html) tells us that testing has begun in Nevada, and it seems a matter of months before we might see longer stretches of highway being driven by big rigs on autopilot. Sure, a human will be behind the wheel, but who’s in charge?
Here’s a quote from the above article:
“Automated trucks could also save fuel by driving in “platoons.” In this scenario, automated trucks, communicating with one another electronically, could drive in a tightly packed line behind a lead truck. This would have huge aerodynamic benefits because only the truck in front would have to push through a lot of air. Each following truck would ride in a sort of bubble created by the truck in front of it.”
The short story concludes (SPOILERS!) with the survivors pumping gas for a long line of trucks. Humans have become the servants.The real-world trucks get a human in the cab to act in case something goes wrong, but how long before even this job is done remotely? This sub-genre of science fiction will only become more relevant as the world moves further towards autonomous machines.
The story Trucks is a fun, creepy lark. But maybe you should wipe your hands well before you handle the steering wheel. Your car might keep you around.