The driverless car and other images

Reading time: About 1.5 minutes

I like to share interesting pieces of figurative language I encounter in my reading. I write today about a New Yorker article on the driverless car written by Burkhard Bilger. 

I’d heard of cars that parked themselves. But I hadn’t heard of driverless cars. Well, not since I’d seen the Jetsons in the 1960s.

I didn’t know they were a deal — likely to become commonplace in my kids’ generation. If you have any doubts about this, you should read Auto Correct, a funny and highly engaging article by Burkhard Bilger, published in the Nov. 25/13 New Yorker.

The facts speak for themselves: Google X — the company’s (vaguely) secret lab for experimental technology has a staff of people creating, programming and testing the driverless car. While it sounds like science fiction, the Google car has now driven more than half a million miles wthout causing an accident. (This is twice as far as the average American driver can go without crashing.)

But it was the writing of this article that made me really pay attention. Here are the four similes I liked the best:

  1. Describing the car: It looks a little like an ice-cream truck, lightly weaponized for inner-city work. 
  2. Describing a contest to build a driverless car: It felt like going to the moon in sneakers. 
  3. Describing a roboticist: Slender and tan, with clear blue eyes and a smooth, seemingly boneless gait, he looks as if he just stepped off a dance floor in Ibiza.
  4. Describing the experience of riding in a driverless carThe effect was almost courtly: drawing back to let others pass, gliding into gaps, keeping pace without strain, like a dancer in a quadrille.

Burkhard Bilger presses out similes the way GM used to produce cars: using a well-oiled assembly line.

Scroll to Top