What if the Autonomous Car Industry Is Wrong?

7 Dec

Autonomous

Do you spend time in Silicon Valley or Detroit? If you don’t, know that most conversations involve these talking points: Autonomous cars are inevitable. Almost here. Will be ubiquitous. Save lives. Reduce traffic. Cut pollution. Also, mobility. And sharing. And no one will own cars. FYI, Don’t buy Tesla. Tesla sucks. Wait for our stuff.

“Never assume,” my father always said, so let’s follow his advice, deconstruct the clickbait underlying much of the autonomous driving narrative, and ask the question:

What if the autonomous car industry is wrong?

First we have to answer this: What is the autonomous car industry? On one side, we have the universe of Silicon Valley companies trying to figure out how to monetize an immature technology. On the other, we have the universe of legacy car companies terrified the upstarts are going to leave them behind. Since no one knows when or how it will be possible to monetize autonomous cars, they’re investing billions in anything with the words Autonomy or Mobility, catchphrases of a seemingly inevitable future they don’t understand.

Are autonomous cars inevitable? Of course. A self-driving car that works on the streets of Mountain View in decent weather? Google has them now. A self-driving car that is 100% guaranteed never to make a mistake, anywhere, in any condition? Not in my lifetime, and I’m not that old.

The billion-dollar question is—

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Traffic Neutrality Is The New Net Neutrality

5 Dec

Traffic Neutrality

Have you heard of Traffic Neutrality? Of course not, because I made it up to describe a looming problem no one is talking about, a problem that will annihilate car culture in the same way the end of Net Neutrality will gut access to all but the largest media entities.

If you equate driving with freedom, then you need to wake up, because the assault on that freedom is already underway.

It isn’t coming from self-driving cars. It’s coming from that as-yet undefined thing called Mobility, and it won’t stop until you are forced to pay for freedoms you currently enjoy for free.

To understand the fight, we need to define terms. Let’s start with Mobility—the true enemy of car culture.

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The 17 Craziest DriveTribes You Must Join Today

30 Nov

Drivetribe

Drivetribe, the new automotive media/community platform from our favorite hosts of the old Top Gear, is here. Richard Hammond described it as the YouPorn of cars. Anyone can sign up to become a “Tribe Leader” and voila! You’ve got yet another outlet on which to see and share the same content posted everywhere else.

Can this work? I don’t know. Like any platform, there’s some good stuff there, and a lot of meh. But I do know that creating a DriveTribe is easy, and that every new social platform offers opportunities to register and fun names and see what happens. You know. For fun. Also, to prevent someone else from squatting on a good one.

Inspired by the 4th String Jaeger site which so totally mocked Pacific Rim, I decided to create a few Tribes myself. Seventeen, to be precise.

I almost forgot. These can’t go public until each has ten members and 2 posts, so PLEASE click on each link to become a member and help DriveTribe build out some unique trIbes, rather than the usual automotive crap. Then, please post something. Anything. Just to see what happens.

Let’s start with the obvious ones.

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Can We Please Stop Pretending Car Hacking Is a Grave Threat?

30 Nov

Hacking

Are you scared of your car getting hacked? The term “hacking” is so broad—and its use in clickbait headlines so vague—as to be meaningless. When was the last time you heard of someone’s car actually being hacked? You haven’t, except for examples which have virtually no bearing on real life.

Your car is as likely to get hacked as you are to get Ebola. Actually, that isn’t true—thousands of people caught Ebola last year. How many private citizens’ cars were hacked? As many as were eaten by Kraken, which is to say, none.

The good news? The nightmare car hack (see below) hasn’t happened. At least not yet. Connected car technologies that will open the door to hacking aren’t quite as connected as headlines would have us believe.

The bad news? The law of unintended consequences means connected cars will almost certainly give rise to new forms of aggravation.

We’re not there yet, but when they arrive we’re going to miss the old days, when car hacking was known by its original name: car theft.

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First Look: What George Hotz Will Probably Announce Tomorrow

29 Nov

George Hotz

Don’t believe everything you read in the media.” – George Hotz, 11/29/2016

George Hotz — the infamous hacker known for unlocking the iPhone, reverse engineering the Playstation 3, turning down a job offer from Elon Musk, and almost launchingthe world’s fanciest cruise control”, A.K.A. the Comma One, an aftermarket Advanced Driver Assistance System (ADAS) he claimed would replicate Tesla Autopilot for $1000 — is back.

Is he BACK back? He’s certainly up to something, because at 1358hr EST today he tweeted the following, along with a video we’re going to analyze:

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Fiat Heir Lapo Elkann Arrested For Partying Like Only He Can. Also, Allegedly Faking A Kidnapping.

28 Nov

Lapo Elkann

This story has everything: Male escorts! Cocaine! Sports Cars! Italian billionaires! Yes, Lapo Elkann is back in action, showing all those other party boys how to make decadence great again. How? Elkann — Fiat heir and the best dressed man in automotive — was arrested in New York this past weekend for allegedly faking his own kidnapping, according to The Daily Beast.

Of course, the story is incredible. How could it be otherwise? Let me tell you, Elkann never disappoints.

An NYPD source told The Beast that Elkann arrived in the city Thursday night, hooked up with a 29-year old make escort, and they “holed themselves up inside a Manhattan housing project” where they began throwing down alcohol, marijuana and cocaine.

Well, that’s a start. Hard to believe a guy who looks like Elkann would need to pay an escort, let alone someone to party with in New York. Hasn’t he been to The Box? Or Provocateur? Or 1 Oak? But those venues don’t kick off until late. Maybe he couldn’t wait.

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Eleven Worst Cars For A Cannonball Run Record Attempt

27 Nov

Cannonball Run

What is the best car for a full on assault on the Cannonball Run record? I’m not talking about rallies by any name. I’m talking about a full-on, balls out race from New York to Los Angeles, where the right gear and police avoidance are paramount.

By now the right cars should be obvious. A supercar on a Cannonball Run? Try sneaking through JFK in a Bin Laden costume.

Sadly, people still don’t want to listen. Let’s face facts. The wrong car will lead to one of two outcomes. Death. Or jail. Actually, there’s a third. A visit to a mechanic, assuming you didn’t bring one with you, in which case you’ve probably already lost. To save those with too much time and money on their hands a lot of time, money and jail time, here’s a list of vehicles to avoid for your next illegal cross-country race:

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The Coldest Cannonball Run Record. On Record.

25 Nov

Cannonball

“Absolutely terrible.”
“The dumbest thing I’ve ever done.”
“It’s Stalingrad. On wheels.”

These are just a few of the things my teammate Zach Bowman and I said to each other a little over a year ago, on what has to be the craziest, bravest, and coldest thing I’ve ever done: 2823 miles, non-stop except for gas, in an open-wheeled, wooden-framed, convertible 2014 Morgan 3-wheeler.

Why? To set — to the best of my knowledge — the first (and possibly last) 3-wheeled “Cannonball Run” record ever, from New York City to Redondo Beach, California.

It rained. It snowed. My catheter froze. (Don’t worry, it was external.) Also, it tugged. Every time it caught on something underneath the car. Why? Because I ran the tube down my leg and through a whole we’d drilled through the metal floor of the Morgan.

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An Open Letter to the Tesla Saboteurs

23 Nov

Tesla

I woke this morning to news of the alleged sabotage of the Tesla Supercharger in Barstow, California. Sad! But is it sad? Yes, but not for the reasons you think. A rising tide of Tesla hate—the sabotage, the fake news, the tireless trolls—got me thinking. If you’re judged by your enemies, Elon Musk should have Secret Service protection. By that standard, Musk should be President. Whatever their motive, the saboteurs have Tesla all wrong, as do all of Tesla’s enemies.

Even if you hate Tesla, you must love Tesla.

It’s true. Literally everything the critics hate about Tesla is in fact a strength. Kool-Aid? Here’s a vat of it, for even if everything Tesla’s critics say is true, Tesla has made the American automotive industry great again, and for that every American should all be proud.

Let’s deconstruct the arguments of those who would rather see the Fremont factory crushed between tectonic plates, with Musk tied down spreadeagled to a Space X landing platform during rocket testing.

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Alex Roy’s Best & Worst of the LA Auto Show

21 Nov

LA Auto Show

I grew up on Ten Best Lists. With the arrival of the internet, I came to love Ten Worst lists as well. The problem is, Buzzfeedification has led to the dilution of list quality. When The Empire Strikes Back isn’t at the top of a Star Wars list (and Attack of the Clones isn’t at the bottom) someone was born after 1990. Someone didn’t know enough to care, or care enough to know.

This — my Best & Worst of the LA Autoshow, assembled after several days of insomnia, four flights, three packs of Airborne and a gallon of Imodium — is an icepick in the face of Buzzfeedification.

My colleagues have already weighed in with the Jaguar I-Pace, Alfa Romeo Stelvio, Chevy Bolt, Porsche 911 RSR & Hyundai Ioniq. All great, but it reads like a laundry list of the obvious. Show up with anything new/good, and you’ll rise above the flotsam of a calcified industry. The Stelvio looks great, but does it deserve to be on the same list as the I-Pace?

The Best