It was a thrill watching your reaction to the smooth opening of the three-paneled roof on the new Lexus IS 350C last week.
Watching you go all bug-eyed watching the 15 electric motors and the 37 sensors sink the hardtop into the boot in a scant 20 seconds reminded me that the mechanical ballet is truly a testament to the wonders of modern automotive technology. Your reaction summed up what some of us car-reviewing adults take for granted:
Whoa! It’s just like a Transformer!
And that’s why I had to write this letter to future Waylon. I didn’t realize it at first, but your father and I cracked the code. The Lexus IS 350C is playing a key role in a massive plot to kill off the human race.
On a lazy Sunday morning your father Dan glanced at the New York Times and said, “That’s the headline we’re going to look back on when the robots take over.”
The article’s title? “Scientists Worry Machines May Outsmart Man.” The piece uncorked this apocalyptic doozy from the recent Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence conference:
“Researchers generally discounted the possibility of highly centralized superintelligences and the idea that intelligence might spring spontaneously from the Internet. But they agreed that robots that can kill autonomously are either already here or will be soon,” New York Times, July 25 2009
That’s when it hit me. Transformers really are robots in disguise.
Up to that point, I hadn’t made the obvious connection between the IS 350C and the eponymous toys-turned-movie-monsters. My wife and I fell into the trap. We were content enjoying the simpler pleasures of the stellar new two-door convertible. The IS we tested had the feisty 306hp 3L V-6 six-speed automatic engine and we got our money’s worth, putting roughly 700 miles between our hectic New York City base and your laconic Martha’s Vineyard home. Clearly, the IS 350C is the next step on the road to our robotic overlords. It was a prototype and we didn’t have a manual, but the car is so intuitive, and does so many things on its own, that the animal behind the wheel never noticed he was being dumbed down for the inevitable takeover.
How will we be able to fight the machines if we no longer know how to read instruction manuals? It’s up to you, Waylon. By your flabbergasted reaction (and everyone else’s for that matter), I fear that the Transformers have already gotten to you with their twenty-year “fattening up the humans” campaign of benign benevolence. The Transformers have been laying the groundwork for years, starting with the harmless toys, onto the halfwit cartoon, the inedible cereal and ultimately, the end of phase one, the craptastic motion pictures that have hauled in some $788 million in box office receipts. (Only 25% of that staggering total is attributable to Megan Fox’s “talents.”)
The next step in the nefarious plan is incorporating transformative technologies into our everyday lives, making us so comfortable that we become immune to the changes all around us. (For further evidence, see also, the fat citizens on the Buy n Large cruise ship in WALL-E). The IS 350C is preparation for the robot revolution, a relaxing automated massage before Megatron turns himself into a guillotine.
I would like to say that I will be here to protect you, Waylon, but I’ve been co-opted by the Machine. The IS 350 features swaddled me, comforted me and nurtured me. Everything about this car dulled my senses into a state of bliss, what with air-conditioned seats, the quiet even-with-the-top-down cabin, the numerous seat-positioning options and the iPod connectivity pulsating the laid back sounds of the Beach Boys through the Mark Levinson surround sound audio system. Everything that once posed a challenge has been covered, even the hassle of having to push the front seats forward for backseat passengers. Easy-access is now a simple push of a button, which, my wife tells me, also ensures you won’t chip your nails. I was even chilled out by the two-toned alabaster-and-blue seats, although that was far from consensus amongst our four other female passengers. I guess it’s due to my long-standing love of saddle shoes.
A docile race is easily defeated, so the IS 350C goes the extra mile to make drivers feel safe. I liked having both the power of 0-60 in six seconds and the automatic bright orange “Ring of Fire” that surrounded the odometer gauge whenever I hit 80 mph, or topped 5000 rpms. I also liked the pop-up rollbar behind the backseats, and the side and rear view mirrors that automatically dimmed in the twilight, saving my eyes from all that unnecessary squinting.
Down the line, dulled senses will come back to haunt me, but it’s a fair trade for eliminating both speeding tickets and glare from postcard sunsets off the Gay Head cliffs.
I beg you Waylon, never forget, machines are fallible. The lack of an armrest in the backseat of the IS 350C got a thumbs-down from two backseaters (one can only raise their hands in the open air roller-coaster style for so long), the volume on the stereo is oddly weird sequenced (62 is the loudest? On Cybertron maybe) and while 18/25 mpg is livable, it’s a far cry from fellow HS 250h Lexus stormtrooper and its 35 mpg average.
I know you’re not quite three yet, but I hope when you read this in 2025, it’s not too late. Thankfully, it seems robots are staggering through these tough economic times like the rest of us, so maybe man and machine will come together in love, working together to create a peaceful world where joy abounds. Simple humanistic joys like cruising around a sunny summer island in an IS 350C.
There’s no need to dampen your enthusiasm for our machines, Waylon. Just don’t be blind to what they’re telling us.
Transformers, more than meets the eye.
Patrick J. Sauer is a contributing editor at Inc., where he writes the “Drives” column, and has contributed to ESPN.com, Popular Science, Fast Company, Details and 23/6, the Huffington Post comedy blog. A native of Montana, Sauer now lives in New York City and usually takes the subway.