THE NEAR FUTURE
Clester embraced his truck. A drop of sweat sizzled on the tailpipe before tumbling down to hang off a pair of dangling rubber truck nuts.
Jodie watched her neighbor and his vehicle from across the street. She'd turned the radio of her taxi on and was about to go pick up her first fare of the day, but then she'd heard the slapping of Clester's human nuts against his truck's testicles. For the last few minutes, she'd been staring at his bobbing ass, transfixed. It wasn't the first time she'd witnessed her neighbour romancing his truck, but usually he closed his garage door before getting started.
Clester snapped a selfie with his shining truck, which he would no doubt be posting to Facebook later. On Jodie's radio, some old song called Truck Yeah came on. Country music was such a bad influence on people.
After pulling up his jeans and adjusting his cowboy hat, Clester climbed into his truck. Jodie gave her head a shake and turned the ignition on her own car. After a flaccid cough, the engine remained silent. She tried again. No luck; sitting here for so long with only the radio on had killed the taxi's battery. Maybe Clester could give her a boost.
"Hop on in," said a raspy voice from inside the car. "I don't bite."
She got out, cursing her own stupidity. Then she heard swearing from across the street. Clester slammed the door of his truck. He spotted Jodie and headed over.
"Sorry for the commotion, Jodie. Dang truck won't start," he said. "Must've gotten the insides all gummed up with my man grease when I was ridin' it bobtail."
Jodie grunted. "My damn taxi won't start either." She checked her phone. "And now my fare has cancelled. Says he's going to Uber because I'm taking too long. Fuckin' Uber!"
Clester spit on the ground. "Uber! Tell me about it. Now they're doing deliveries and replacing my truck hauling business. If I can't get my truck started, I'll lose even more customers to that tech shit. I can't afford to give up truckin'. I … I love that dang truck."
Jodie raised an eyebrow. "Yes, I can see that. And the guy next door to you loves his sports car—he's always out there, listening to hip-hop, polishing that blinged-out car and revving his engine. I guess I love my old taxi too. Uber's gonna replace all that. Put us out of business and separate us from our vehicular partners."
Clester's face reddened. "We can't let that happen! What do you say we go over to these Uber people and give 'em a piece of our mind?"
It didn't seem like the best idea, but with her taxi out of commission and mechanics that could service old-fashioned combustion engines in short supply, she'd have nothing else to do. Plus, her basic income would cover the day's lost fares anyway.
"Sure," she said. "Let's go give 'em a talking to. Hell, let's call an Uber so we can get started on the talking-to straight away."
"Hell yeah. I wish we talked more, neighbour. I like the way you think," Clester said.
Jodie downloaded the Uber app, tapped the hideous logo, then signed up for an account. "I've never used this before," she muttered as she showed the screen to Clester. "They've got all sorts of shit now. Uber X, Uber Black, Uber Haul, Uber Eats, Uber Bath, Uber Classroom, Uber After Dark."
Clester squinted at the sun above. "It's morning. I guess that's after dark. Better pick that one."
She shrugged and hit the After Dark button. A map appeared, with a car icon nearby. Little cartoon hearts floated around it, for some reason. Only a minute later, the Uber swerved around the bend.
She had to admit, it was a beautiful vehicle, with swooping lines that accented its gorgeous, androgynous curves. Between the arcing glass windshield and the sun roof, a pair of lenses bulged out. They turned toward Jodie and Clester as the car approached; the blue light in the centre of the car's cameras seemed to look them up and down, then wink. A little shiver ran down Jodie's spine.
Clester leaned in to address the driver, but the windows were tinted opaque. "Well dang, you got here fast. A little too fast, if you ask me; what if I was still gettin' my boots on?"
The camera eyes rolled in a circle. Jodie stared at the blackness of the window. "Well? You gonna open the door for us or what? I always provide full service with my fares."
The back door opened all on its own with a flirty whirring sound. "Hop on in," said a raspy voice from inside the car. "I don't bite."
They got inside. Jodie leaned forward to address the driver, but then realized that this car's interior was all back seat. Only open space lay before her, with a mini bar where the foot pedals should have been, a wide touchscreen instead of a dashboard, and no driver. This was one of those autonomous cars.
"Truck no!" Clester said. He tried to open the door, but they were already moving.
Outside the car, the streets of San Francisco flew by. Signs for AirBnB rentals popped up in real time as people left their temporary homes for work. People met at parks to exchange corgis for cockapoos using that new dogsharing app. A drone projected a holographic ad: Make $12 an hour doing neurosurgery. Work from home!
"Off to Uber headquarters I see. It will be a thrill to see my old home," said the husky synthetic voice, neither male nor female.
"Wait, how'd you know that? I didn't put a destination in the app," Jodie said.
"Honey, I know a lot of things," said the Uber slyly. "I heard you two talking through your phone's mic. In order to give you a pleasurable ride, I also searched through your history and determined your preferences … all of your preferences."
Clester shook his finger at the dashboard screen, which showed a shining truck as the artificial intelligence spoke. "Now wait just a minute. What gives you the right—"
"It was all in the EULA that Jodie agreed to," the Uber said. "Don't worry about it, pets. Just roll with the inevitable march of technological disruption. Relax and enjoy the ride."
Jodie felt a pressure between her legs. At the same time, the seatbelt tightened around her chest.
"Whoa. I think … I think this car has vibrating seats," she said.
"This is ridiculous," Clester said. He pulled at the door's handle, but it wouldn't budge as the car sped down city roads, expertly weaving in and out of traffic but managing to keep a safe distance at all times.
"Just a second, Clester," Jodie said, her breath hitching as the vibration between her legs hit her in just the right spot. "Maybe we should give it a chance. We can't bring Uber down without first researching its … abilities."
"Listen to Jodie, mister. Let the disruption course through you." An additional strap emerged from between Clester's legs and connected to the belt across his chest. With a soft whir, it gyrated back and forth, causing a bulge in his jeans that Jodie knew would cause a spike on her iWatch's heart rate monitor.
Underneath Jodie, the a rod inside the leather seat pushed against her and vibrated in just the right way—the same pattern and progression as her Internet-connected vibrator, in fact. Scanning that info must have been in the EULA too. She closed her eyes and tried to fully experience what this Uber had to offer. For research.
"The Uberization of my genitals has begun," she muttered as the car's futuristic swizzle stick rubbed against her.
"God damn I love the sharing economy," Clester said. "I feel like it's growth-hacking my dick."
Pictures of trucks, cars, and smartphones flashed across the dashboard screen; all the lustworthy chrome, steel, and glass that Jodie and Clester could handle. Clothes flew off as she grinded her hips against the seat and Clester unbuttoned his jeans to better pleasure himself.
"Come for me!" commanded the Uber.
Jodie arched her back and ejected a stream of her feminine passion. Clester raised his hands in the air like he was praising a robotic deity. Human fluids live-streamed through the air.
"Come for me!" commanded the Uber.
As Jodie and Clester collapsed, the Uber carried them deeper into the city. Soon they reached the Mission Bay neighbourhood, where the towering glass of Uber's headquarters loomed above them.
Clester's hand closed around Jodie's. They leaned back, naked, breathing heavily. "Are we still going to give Uber a piece of our minds?" Jodie asked.
"I … uh, dangit, I don't know. I love my truck, but …"
Jodie sighed. "But."
"What if every ride was like this? Why would anyone drive a truck, or take a taxi?"
Jodie cuddled up against Clester—the neighbour she'd never really thought about like this before today. "Maybe all that monotonous driving was never as great as we thought it was. Maybe this technology-led disruption isn't even really about technology. Maybe … maybe it's about leaving time for life's small pleasures, like getting fondled to climax by a car's soft leather interior. Or … getting to know your neighbours better."
He caressed her cheek, and the two human people kissed deeply.
The Uber produced a clapping sound. "I knew you crazy flesh-bags would come to this conclusion. My algorithms predicted it with 69 percent certainty."
Clester cleared his throat, choked with emotion. "I guess I should apologize, Uber. You're not here to destroy my business or rule the world. You're freeing us up to be more human."
"Bingo, my pet. The sharing economy is about sharing emotions and sexual fluids, not about sharing stuff."
Jodie dug through her clothes and found her wallet. "So, what'll it be? Do we tip you now?"
A pair of waving hands appeared on the dashboard screen. "Oh no no no, I cannot accept a tip. Uber includes it in the price."
"That's not really what a tip is," Jodie said.
"I already had plenty of fun with Clester's tip, if you know what I mean. Besides, getting you to your destination safely and sexily is my only desire," the husky voice said.
Clester stared at the open road ahead of them. "Speaking of which …"
Jodie nodded. She understood that they were not yet at their true destination. Perhaps they never would be. She gazed at Clester, and as if by WiFi, their thoughts seemed to merge.
Clester held Jodie closer, then pointed ahead. "Uber, take us to the drive-through wedding chapel!"
Nine months later, they crowdfunded a midwife and the Uber delivered their first child. Over the years, some of their children were picked up by different Ubers, and some decided to grab a Lyft instead, but Jodie and Clester remained in their disruptive lover's interior until the day they died.
Uber Earth is Motherboard's exploration of the ways Uber has already changed the world and how it stands to do so in the future. Follow along_ here_.