Essentially Ashland: By Lance Pugh — My neighbor just purchased a new hybrid, with a full complement of devices guaranteed to make you feel like you just landed on an aircraft carrier cruising about a mile offshore San Diego.

My neighbor just purchased a new hybrid, with a full complement of devices guaranteed to make you feel like you just landed on an aircraft carrier cruising about a mile offshore San Diego. It was rated for high fuel efficiency and could pretty much drive itself, as it sported GPS, some form of radar and speech recognition. When he asked me to drive him to the airport and keep the car for two weeks I responded in the affirmative.

Within 24 hours of having the car in my possession I had interfaced with its network and began experimenting with a few things. After probing and analyzing about I finally got out of my G-suit and helmet, leaving me free to slip into some shorts and a golf shirt, which I am sure provided great comfort and less stress to the mailman as he approached the porch, where I was seated with my laptop while loading modified programs into the car, which was parked at the curb.

Within a few minutes I had accessed the central processor and downloaded a summary of some of its features. It was Flash Gordon time on B Street in Ashland:

"Dynamic Radar Cruise Control (DRCC), Pre-Collision System (PCS), Lane Keep Assist (LKA), Intelligent Parking Assist (IPA); Voice-activated touch screen DVD navigation system with JBL® AM/FM/MP34-disc CD changer, eight speakers, integrated satellite radio capability, XM NavTraffic® capability, hands-free phone capability and music streaming via Bluetooth®wireless technology, and integrated backup camera."

I grabbed my tech bag and within an hour had installed a forward-looking camera and made the trunk and windows openable from my laptop. While still on the porch I started it up by voice control and took it for a spin around the block, then had it self-parallel park just to show off. The only problem was that a lady screamed that it was a runaway vehicle, not knowing that I was in full control. I soon solved that by installing an inflatable doll, not that I owned one myself, in the driver's seat, and slyly taped its hands to the steering wheel. I accessorized the doll with a straw hat and a pair of sunglasses, resulting in a very convincing air-filled driver.

For my first trial I told it to go to the local supermarket, using its GPS and lane-following radar system and open its trunk and pick up a bag of pre-ordered groceries. By amplifying my Wi-Fi home network I could vicariously ride along with it as it went through its paces. I could not have imagined how smoothly things went, for in five minutes it was again parked at the curb, opening its trunk while calling me on my cell to come get the groceries before the ice cream began to melt. Considering that it was over 100 degrees outside, this was the real way to shop and I monitored things from inside the house, where the air conditioning was just about to make snow.

In short order I sent it to the hardware store for a few items, then had it pull into a gas station to fill the gas tank for a couple of fun-filled weeks of errands while I kept working on some soon-due articles. If the car had a question it could either Instant Message or phone me, which, come to think of it, never happened.

I noticed that it was getting close to 5 p.m., so I sent it to the bank to make a deposit and pick up a few dollars for the weekend. I should have thought this one through before issuing the order and calling the bank with instructions.

It seems that just as I put the finishing touches on a story of an Ashland bank robbery, the remote controlled car pulled up to the drive-through teller's window, though what happened next was a total surprise. It seems that the car had somehow hacked my network, read my bank story, then did its own research on the Internet, resulting in it thinking that it was Bonnie, waiting for Clyde and a couple bags of money.

As the car again pulled up to the curb, it had four squad cars with sirens and light bars blaring at full capacity. The next few hours were full of explanations until the FBI arrived and the enhanced interrogation began.

Lance@journalist.com was last seen doing 300 hours of community service for his "attempted" remote bank robbery. Feel free to cuff him anytime, the FBI does.