ZOOMBIES: The Night of the Self Drive Cars

A Halloween inspired ghost story – based on true events…

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Once upon a time, there were two young men from the USA named David and Greg. These were two bright young men who came from good families. They attended good universities, they had good friends, and they had stable well paying jobs. All was well in the lives of the two young gentlemen … until they made a choice that would change their lives forever.

One night while drinking beers at a Belgian resto bar in New York, the two of them began discussing sustainable business opportunities in emerging markets.  After discussing several ideas, one in specific dawned upon young David.

He remarked “Greg! I just realized that there is no self drive car hire service in Bangalore, India!” Greg then replied “Wow David! You are completely correct. Most people in Bangalore don’t own a car and are tired of dealing with public transportation and cabs. This is brilliant! But I’ll take it one step further … what if the cars actually drove THEMSELVES?!?” “Oh. My. God. Greg … this is the greatest idea we have ever come up with. Let’s name it ZOOM.”

And so it was decided. Young Greg and David would move to Bangalore, India, in pursuit of creating a company where the cars would drive the passengers. No more driving. No more chauffeurs. Just get behind the wheel and let the car do the work. They had the vision, they had the passion, and they had the desire. They were hungry for success – literally: Greg ate 13 dosas to raise money for cars. Everything was going according to plan … or so they thought.

A few months later they launched in Bangalore. The cars were driving people perfectly. Everyone was getting to where they needed to be. Self drive cars were the new hit and business was booming.

But something eerie started to happen. The self drive cars were so good, that the people of Bangalore started to be on time for all of their appointments and meetings. But everybody was so happy about not having to deal with traffic or a chauffeur, that they didn’t even stop to think how alarming Bangalore punctuality should be.

But then … the cars started learning. They came to know maps of the city. They memorized routes. They took shortcuts. They knew the price of a route before they took off. And best of all, you didn’t have to negotiate with them. It seemed like the ZOOM cars were getting better and better.

Before long the cars began communicating with each other. Being that every ZOOM car came equipped with a GPS navigation system, they started to link up. They learned where each other were and mapped out routes accordingly. They talked to each other and made sure they were in optimal positions to pick up and drop off customers.

Connected Car

The customers loved it. The fact that the cars were learning meant that it was easier to get to and fro. More and more people began to self-drive with ZOOM, and the cars consistently got smarter and smarter. The more people who decided to rent a car from ZOOM, the more the cars learned, and the better they were at getting people to their destinations. It was the most perfect transportation solution Bangalore had ever seen.

So ZOOM continued to grow. To their initial fleet of Ford Figos and Mahindra Scorpios, they had added BMW 3 Series, Volkswagon Ventos, and the new Mahindra Reva E-2O as well. But they were planning on making an additional purchase … a purchase that they would soon regret.

Greg Halloween

Greg was looking for new vehicles down at the Crossroads Used Car Shop. Late one night. The monsoon had just finished for the evening, so the ground was thick with steam and car exhaust from the traffic jam that always happens after the rain.

The used car salesman, Deepak Mephisto showed Greg an old Ambassador. It looked beautiful, with classic styling. Even though it was old, it was in perfect condition. Then a monkey scuttled out from under the car, climbed up on the bonnet and turned over the price tag. It was just too good. Greg couldn’t turn it down.

David Halloween

Greg brought the Ambassador back to ZOOM’s body shop near Ulsoor Lake. David looked up from his lab bench with concern. “Great Scott, Greg! That car is too old. It is a relic of India’s socialist command-and-control economy. It was never meant for self drive.” But Greg insisted “Think of the marketing potential. This is the best way to show people that self drive really is perfect for India.”

They took it into the garage and lifted it up with heavy chains. It began to rain again and as the mist swirled around them, they bolted the self drive technology into the Ambassador. An enormous bolt of lightning came down just that moment, striking the ZOOM garage. David and Greg were knocked to the ground. As they stood up, the car’s headlights began to flicker on and off, and the steering wheel turned back and forth. It was alive!

Halloween Lab

The other cars at ZOOM’s Ulsoor Lake site came awake and slowly gathered around the vehicle held above the floor by the heavy chains. They seemed to be worshipping the new car. David and Greg slowly lowered the car to the ground. As soon as the tires hit the ground, the Ambassador sped off into the night with its tires screeching. The other cars followed.

The Ambassador started telling other cars what to do, where to go, how fast to drive. It had a mind of it’s own. ZOOM had created a monster … and it was too late.

And then things got bad.

The ambassador had one thought on its mind. SELF DRIVE. Any other cars that were not self-driven had to go. No more cars. No more cabs. No more auto-rickshaws. All other cars must be exterminated. Under the Ambassador’s direction, the ZOOM cars started crashing into other cars, they drove other vehicles off the side of the road, they pummeled rickshaw drivers, and they toppled busses.

Bangaloreans no longer had an option. It was self drive or die. If you got into another vehicle you risked losing your life. The self-drive cars were simply too smart, too sophisticated, and had too much technology.

In less than 24 hours the ZOOMbies had taken over Bangalore. Their headlights light’s were no longer white, but now ZOOM green. The cars no longer played the regular radio, but instead played the same Bollywood songs over and over. The cars patrolled the city, with the spooky green glow and the relentlessly terrible music heralding their coming. The people of Bangalore lived in fear.


Greg and David, they knew they had to destroy what they created. On October 31, they hatched a plan.

“I know what we can do” said David. “If we book a reservation online using the ZOOM mobile app, one of the cars will have to come pick us up. When we get into the car, we can hack into the navigational system and find the location of the Ambassador.”

“But how are we going to take down the Ambassador once it comes to pick us up?” asked Greg.

“We’re gonna self drive it all the way to Ladakh and take it straight off the highest road in the world. That is the only way to undo what we have done.” replied David.

And so it was decided. They went online, booked a reservation in three easy steps, and the car was on its way. “I can’t believe how easy it is to book a car online using the ZOOM website” said Greg. “Yes,” said David “It is too easy. That is why the ZOOM cars now dominate the roads of Bangalore.”

Within minutes the car was at their door, green lights on.  “All is well” blasted from the stereo. They got into the car and instantly started hacking it. Within two minutes Greg had successfully hacked into the GPS, and had located the Ambassador. They put the emergency signal on in the car that they hacked, and the Ambassador was on its way … with a vengeance.

By the time that the Ambassador arrived they had their plan well thought out: Jump into the Ambassador, hack into the GPS, and send it to Ladakh to commit autocide. Everything seemed easy…or so they thought.

When the Ambassador arrived they noticed something strange. It was no longer white, but now ZOOM green. It had leopard-print seats. It had neon pink lights on its undercarriage. It had 18-inch wheels with spinning rims. It even had pink fuzzy dice hanging from the mirror. It was totally pimped out.

Pimp ambassador

“Dammit Greg.  I knew we shouldn’t have put so much damn technology into these cars! What are we going to do!?!?!?”

And just as they said this, a familiar face arrived in an auto-rickshaw. It was the last surviving rick in the city … and the driver was so desperate that he gave the passengers meter fare – even at night!

Troy Halloween

The passenger none other than their new intern, the Boy Wonder Troy. He was wearing an absurd Halloween costume … and he was holding enough Diwali fireworks to blow up the city.

Troy leaped out of the rickshaw and proclaimed “TRICK OR TREAT, MOTHERFUCKER!!!”

With one swoop he took out a box of matches, struck all of them to light at the same time, and sent a barrage of rockets flying at the Ambassador. It was able to drive away, but being that the car already had over 2 lakh miles on it, it didn’t get very far.

Once it stopped Troy took his last remaining Roman Candle, shoved it up the tailpipe of the Ambassador, and lit it on fire. 3, 2, 1….BOOM!!

The ambassador instantly blew into pieces and scattered all over the roads. Flaming debris was everywhere and a burning tire slowly rolled away. Greg and David crawled out from underneath a car, and although they suffered some minor injuries, they were fine.

Flaming car

“Thanks Troy, I don’t know how things got out of hand so fast” said Greg.

“Yeah man, you saved our lives … thanks” remarked David.

“No worries, this is what I’m here for” replied Troy….”But now I need to kill you”.

“WHAT?! WHAT DO YOU MEAN? WHY?!?” screamed the two.

“Because you both invented Self Driving in Bangalore. The ZOOMbies can’t be stopped unless the two of you are dead”.


“Nope, I’m sorry gentleman … you must die”.

At that moment, Troy snapped his finger and a Volkswagon Vento pulled up. He snapped his finger again and the lights turned red. He snapped his finger a third time and the car bolted off and ran over Greg and David … the two were dead.

Two years later things were going well for Troy. He was now the owner and CEO of Zoom, and the cars were no longer driving themselves, the people were. He discovered that people actually liked driving. They wanted the freedom of driving four wheels themselves, instead of having the car drive for them. ZOOM was a success, and Troy couldn’t be happier.

But the next Halloween, on the anniversary of Greg and David’s deaths, something happened. While Troy was sleeping, the ghosts of Greg and David appeared in his room.

“Troy you have been very bad to us. We took you under our wings, we showed you how to run a successful company, and this is how you repay us?”

“Guys I’m sorry … I didn’t have any other choice! If I didn’t kill you guys the ZOOMbies wouldn’t have ever stopped!”


“OK FINE! I had to do it. I wanted the company for myself. If I didn’t take the two of you out, how could I ever achieve success for myself?!”

“Yes Troy … we know.  And we also know how we are going to repay you … muahahahahhahahahahaha (evil laugh)”

At that moment Greg and David pulled out a radio and put on some music. It was Bollywood music. It was the soundtrack from “3 Idiots”.


“Too late Troy, you dug your grave…now lie in it.”

To this day the ghosts of Greg and David visit Troy while he is sleeping and blast Bollywood music into his ears. Every night they play the same song … over and over. And they will continue to … until Troy dies.

Haunted Halloween

Some say that if you walk into the old Zoom body shop by Ulsoor Lake, you can still hear the ghosts of Greg and David playing Bollywood music and the ghost of the Ambassador clattering the chains it was born in. Some few brave and foolish customers walk into the garage, but they are never seen again. The vehicles site is now widely known as the most haunted place in Bangalore … are you brave enough to go check it out?

Halloween Factory



Troy Erstling

IDEX Fellow in Social Enterprise


4 thoughts on “ZOOMBIES: The Night of the Self Drive Cars

  • November 3, 2013 at 8:26 pm

    Hysterical Halloween comedy. Looking forward to reading more from this witty writer

  • November 5, 2013 at 2:24 pm

    Thanks Bujew I really appreciate it :) Much more to come!

  • February 9, 2014 at 3:50 pm

    Haha glad you liked it! Yes, please share this on your wall if you want to.


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