What was the name of a short story about aliens thinking cars are the dominant life form and the humans inside are their internal organs? I read it in the UK in the 1980s in English in a science fiction omnibus. That was the only story I remember.

  • Where did you read this, and when? In what language? What were the other stories from this omnibus? Jun 25, 2017 at 15:47
  • 1
    Cars - Homunculus Theory
    – Valorum
    Jun 25, 2017 at 15:47
  • 3
    Did you search for this at all? For example, Pale Blue Dot is first on the list under literature at tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/MistookTheDominantLifeform
    – jonrsharpe
    Jun 25, 2017 at 15:49
  • Read it in the UK in the 1980s in English in a science fiction omnibus. That was the only story I remember
    – Pete Abel
    Jun 25, 2017 at 15:50
  • 2
    That sounds familiar. Story was originally written in a Eastern European language and translated into English. Alien thought skyscrapers were a type of plant. Thought cars went to sleep when their headlights went dark. Described humans as an egg shape on a square trunk. Jun 25, 2017 at 20:01

2 Answers 2


I think you're recalling the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

In the past, Ford arrived on Earth thinking that cars were the dominant lifeform. Upon arriving, Ford stood in the middle of the road trying to greet a car, not aware that he was going to be killed in an accident.

He was then saved by a random passerby, Arthur Dent. This is how their friendship started.

When Arthur finally understands that Ford is an alien, they discuss the weird circumstances of how they met each other. This is how the topic is initially brought up, since the story of H2G2 begins when Ford has already been on the planet for a considerable amount of time (and is already best friends with Arthur)

Ford: Didn't you think it was strange I was trying to shake hands with a car?
Arthur: I assumed you were drunk.
Ford: I thought cars were the dominant lifeform. I was trying to introduce myself.

In the H2G2 movie, there is a scene where Ford's greeting of the car and Arthur's rescue are shown. Link to video

I'm not sure if the Hitchhiker's Guide series of books counts as an omnibus specifically, but it is a collection of stories.

  • 3
    And of course this is also the origin of his chosen name for his stint on Earth, Ford Prefect.
    – IanF1
    Jun 26, 2017 at 11:25
  • 1
    Nicely inconspicuous.
    – Jontia
    Oct 31, 2019 at 9:35

It sounds like the poem "Southbound on the Freeway" by May Swenson. I remember reading this poem in high school in the early 90's.

Here's the text of the poem:

May Swenson - Southbound On The Freeway

A tourist came in from Orbitville,
parked in the air, and said: 

The creatures of this star
are made of metal and glass. 

Through the transparent parts
you can see their guts. 

Their feet are round and roll
on diagrams--or long 

measuring tapes--dark
with white lines. 

They have four eyes.
The two in the back are red. 

Sometimes you can see a 5-eyed
one, with a red eye turning 

on the top of his head.
He must be special- 

the others respect him,
and go slow, 

when he passes, winding
among them from behind. 

They all hiss as they glide,
like inches, down the marked 

tapes. Those soft shapes,
shadowy inside 

the hard bodies--are they
their guts or their brains?

  • @SQB Thanks for the edit. I answered quickly on my cell phone and had planned to edit later. Jun 29, 2017 at 15:28
  • No problem, you're welcome. It's a good find and a very likely candidate.
    – SQB
    Jun 29, 2017 at 19:33
  • I think this is the one, because I was just about to ask this same question, and without a doubt this is it.
    – Sensoray
    Oct 29, 2019 at 13:43

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