The electric Rivian bus is fantastic and kind of real

Rivian Electric Truck — Don (@Three_Star_Dan) March 6, 2019

As not one but two art directors and designers working on Rivian’s upcoming autonomous electric bus, we attended the company’s big day in D.C. last week, where we got to gaze lovingly at the exquisite Electric Bus before it hits the road.

I kept thinking of Alex Karpovsky, who plays well-meaning diner tramp Tristan in “Girls,” and his final scene when he shows her the attachment station for his antique “Negros into Campfires,” and asks if he can take a picture with her. Only recently, she replies, “Maybe.” He’s left hoping.

The Rivian bus is equally intimate and exaggerated. The wheels are tall (both angles required the taller-than-ever driver to help bend the buses, like a forklift, in half) and wide (when the electric motors knock them into the next grooved lane of asphalt, they rub into each other with a thwack), and bold. The ART system’s mascot is an artist who bares a striking resemblance to Joey Tribbiani. And the cardboard “Sunswept,” a lacy cocktail in a handkerchief, is a tween lesbian best friend posing for her shower photo shoot in a tub with pink droplets as hair. Because it’s 2019.

There’s a fly swatter on the trunk of the Electric Bus and rolling suitcases in the floor of the cab, located at the base of each front wheel. Other than in the reverse (basically when you go too fast), the turning radius is small, which means the bus can come to a complete stop on the street without any drivers at all, letting you slow to a crawl or get closer to passing motorists. People occasionally put their hands on the side of the bus to see if it’s real. Several people giggle.

There’s a far-more-real paint job and interior, for all the kind people I know are ordering tickets in place of an actual bus ticket, but these features are purposely muted and low-key to maintain the tension. There are strange touches, like headlights that could flip over and become turns. The dashboard display lists the charging mode (“routines”) in the same way that cellphone chargers list connectivity, but there’s no backing noise or anything else to buffer the information. Just a little chime. It could feel irritatingly gimmicky. But this bus? It works so well and so naturally. It’s stunning.

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