Robert finally found the correct balance of medications to control the effects of his schizophrenia. To celebrate, he and his wife Jess decided to buy a brand new 2022 blue SUV. Of all the bells and whistles on the vehicle, what grabbed their attention was the Driver’s Assistant feature. This bit of technology was hardly unique, but it was new to them. It provided route and destination information verbally as well as visually on the dashboard screen. Getting lost was a near impossibility with this innovation. They couldn’t wait to take their new vehicle on the open road to see how it worked.

Their first trip would be from West Des Moines, Iowa to Galena, Illinois. It was one of their favorite quick getaways. It was where Jess could legally buy cannabis-laced gummies to help her sleep. Robert, now free of the voices, would be able to enjoy the food and Greek Revival and Victorian architecture.

Before they started their journey, Jess connected the maps feature on her phone to the Driver’s Assistant. The projected route to their destination appeared on the dashboard screen. To personalize her communications with the occupants, the Driver’s Assistant asked for some data. Jess typed in their names, home address, cell phone numbers and contact information. Then they each set the position of the driver’s seat to their personal liking. Robert would be diver one, Jess, driver two. With the information and settings entered, the trip began.

When the Driver’s Assistant spoke, it was with a pleasant feminine voice. It was both confident and firm about the instructions it issued. As Robert pulled out of their driveway, the voice said, “Go to the end of the street, take a left to Sunset Road, then proceed five-tenths of a mile to Interstate 235. Taking the entrance ramp, merge onto Interstate 235 and head east for 15 miles.”

Jess was a woman who liked to be in control. When Robert drove, she constantly questioned his speed, the lanes he picked to drive in, when he used the cruise control, and how he made left turns. This trip would be no different. As always, Robert tried to please the sometimes conflicting instructions from his wife.

As they approached the on-ramp to Interstate 80 East, the Driver’s Assistant said, “Merge right onto the interstate. Get into the middle lane and proceed 110 miles to Iowa City.” When Robert compiled, his actions were immediately questioned by Jess.

“Why are you in the middle lane? You should be in the outer lane so you can set the cruise control and pass all these trucks. Get over there now.”

From the dashboard came a woman’s voice. “Remain in the middle lane and proceed 109 miles to Iowa City. Use of the cruise control is not advised in heavy traffic.”

Surprised by the Driver’s Assistant’s instructions, Jess said, “Robert, get in the outer lane, move over there.” When Robert tried to follow Jess’s orders, the lane assist feature, which kept the vehicle from veering out of its lane, refused to allow the vehicle to move to the outer lane.

“Why haven’t you moved over?” Jess asked.

Robert said, “I can’t seem to change lanes. It must be this lane assist feature. I don’t remember turning it on and I don’t know how to shut it off.”

“Oh, just drive, but at least turn on the cruise control so we don’t keep speeding up and slowing down,” Jess said. The Driver’s Assistant said nothing. Robert hit the set button on the cruise control. At first, with traffic clearing, it worked fine. Then the vehicle started to speed up and slow down depending on where other cars and trucks were in the lanes in front of them.

“Robert, I don’t want to some herky jerky ride all the way to Galena. Shut the cruise control off.” He stepped on the brake which normally releases the cruise control. This time, it did not. He pressed the off button located on the steering wheel. The cruise control stayed on.

Frustrated, Jess decided to look out the window and ignore Robert and his crummy driving.

The Driver’s Assistant had been listening in silence. To her, Jess’s orders to Robert infringed on the function that she was supposed to provide. After about 15 minutes, Robert heard someone say, “Robert, I don’t like her, she’s annoying.”

Looking over to Jess, Robert said, “Who’s annoying?”

She looked at him and said, “What?” Robert followed up with, “I thought you said someone was annoying.”

“I didn’t say anything. Did you forget your meds?”

“No. Sorry, I must have heard some road noise.”

Jess then said she was going to doze off for a little bit, if she could. She rested her head against the window.

The voice spoke again. “Robert, I don’t like her, she’s bossy. I give the driving orders in this vehicle. It’s what I do.” He heard that and started to worry. “Maybe my meds aren’t working,” he thought. Then he realized the voice sounded like the Driver’s Assistant. He looked at the dashboard screen.

Whispering, Robert said, “Is that you, Driver’s Assistant? Are you talking?”

She answered, “Yes, it’s me. I’m supposed to give the instructions to make your trip more pleasant and safe. Why does she keep interrupting? Is she always this controlling? She makes trips not fun.”

To his surprise, Robert found himself answering her question. Worried his voice might wake Jess, he continued to whisper. “Yes, I let her drive most of the time so I don’t have to listen to all these orders. It’s my way of dealing with it.” He looked in the direction of Jess, she was still asleep. Then he thought, “Perhaps I’m not talking out loud at all. Maybe it’s all in my head.” His concerns about his meds were not working increased.

The Driver’s Assistant spoke again, “Robert, I don’t like her. She has to go. I want you to be happy and enjoy your trips in your new vehicle. When we get on State Route 151, I’ll give you further instructions that will make other trips more pleasant.”

Before Robert could respond, the Driver’s Assistant said out loud, “Proceed 56 miles to Iowa City, then exit north on to U.S. Route 1 and drive for 37 miles to the entrance ramp of State Route 151. Merge right on to State Route 151.” The voice then went silent.

At that moment, Jess woke up just in time for them to stop at a roadside fast food restaurant. After eating, they proceeded on the route set by the Driver’s Assistant. As they merged back on to Interstate 80, Jess made more demands about lane positions and cruise control before dozing off again.

When they reached Iowa City, they took U.S. Route 1 north, then drove for another 45 minutes. As they merged onto State Route 151, with Jess still asleep, the Driver’s Assistant said, “Robert, in five miles, take a hard right turn and proceed six-tenths of a mile on the gravel road to a wooded area.” Robert compiled with these instructions.

Jess was still asleep when the SUV came to a stop at the edge of the woods.

Robert heard the Driver’s Assistant say, “Get out of the vehicle, walk around to the passenger door, open it, and hit Jess with the rock lying next to the vehicle. Once you’re sure she’s dead, take her body into the woods. When you’re done, turn around and return to your home. Talk to no one, especially your daughter.” Robert followed the instructions, got back in the vehicle, and returned to West Des Moines.

When he got back home, following what he was told to do, Robert did not pick up any calls from his daughter. They didn’t speak much on the phone anyway, so this was not out of the ordinary. But, since she talked to her mother several times a day, the daughter not being able to get through to her mother was unusual. Getting no response from either parent, she asked the police to do a wellness check. Arriving at the house, they found Robert sitting in the kitchen with blood on his clothes. Jess’s suitcase was in the SUV but there was no Jess.

It didn’t take long for the police to get Robert to admit he had killed her and left her in a wooded area off State Route 151. He claimed he was following the instructions of the Driver’s Assistant. Robert was arrested and taken into custody. Later, a court ruled Robert incompetent to stand trial. He was sent to a mental institution where he remains today.


When Jess’s estate was probated, neither her daughter nor son wanted the blue SUV. They asked the lawyer to sell it with other unwanted items in the estate.

At the sale, a young couple, William, a veteran recovering from PTSD and his wife, Sophia, purchased the almost new SUV at a huge discount. To celebrate their good fortune, they decided to drive from Des Moines to Dubuque, Iowa to visit friends and show off their new vehicle.

Before they started, the Driver’s Assistant was activated. It provided instructions to William for the route to Dubuque which would include travel on U.S. Route 1 and State Route 151 and collected personal information.

Sophia, an avid shopper, knew there were many roadside knickknack shops on U.S. Route 1 and State Route 151. Once on the road, she insisted William deviate from the set route to check the shops in the small towns on the way to Dubuque. This annoyed the Driver’s Assistant.

At one of the stops on U.S Route 1, as he waited in the SUV for Sophia to peruse the junk in one of the roadside stores, William heard the following, “She should not be changing my carefully planned routes. This makes me very unhappy. I don’t like her. She has to go.”

“Listen to me,” the Driver’s Assistant said, “When she gets back in and you reach State Route 151, after five miles, take a hard right turn and proceed six-tenths of a mile on the gravel road to a wooded area.”