Dear Elon Musk: You Need Me For the Self-Driving Tesla Cannonball Run

22 May

Tesla

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

Dear Elon:

Just over 100 years ago, Erwin “Cannonball” Baker drove a Stutz Bearcat from Los Angeles to New York City in 271 hours, ushering in the era of coast-to-coast endurance driving records that still bear his nickname. Although “Cannonballing” is often conflated with reckless driving, Baker’s feat—and his 142 records that followed—was intended to demonstrate the safety and reliability of the internal combustion technology that would transform the 20th century.

With your claim that a Tesla will make the first “full self-driving” cross-country run before the end of 2017, a new era is about to dawn, and with it a new series of records showcasing the electric and autonomous technologies that will transform the 21st.

Among all the potential benefits of self-driving cars, the moral imperative to reduce injuries and deaths caused by human driving towers above all others. Tesla already commands 40% of global press in the automotive sector; combined with the hope, fear and anticipation over the arrival of self-driving cars, the first Level 4 Cannonball Run record will be one of the most important events in the history of transportation, if not human history.

The public spectacle of a Tesla’s safe journey across the United States will likely become the hinge upon which public faith in autonomous driving will swing.

But only if the public believes it.

An edited video isn’t going to cut it. Continue reading

Why Radar Detectors Matter More Than Ever

12 Apr

Radar detectors matter more than ever, but you wouldn’t know it from the poorly researched clickbait that was Doug Demuro’s recent article, “Radar Detectors Are Useless Now.”

I like DeMuro. We’ve met. I’ve been reading him since he started at Jalopnik. At his best, Demuro is the Dave Barry of automotive. I laughed out loud at DeMuro’s Plays With Cars. He’s a great entertainer. I also know he’s not an idiot, so I can only assume he was too lazy to Google some basic facts, and willing to sacrifice his readers’ wallets on the altar of alternative facts. Sad!

Why should you trust my opinion? Because I led the team that broke the Cannonball Run record in 2007, driving from New York to Los Angeles in 31 hours and 4 minutes. I also led the teams that set the electric and semi-autonomous records in 2016 (55 hours), the 3-wheeled record (41 hours), the Key West to Seattle record (45 hours, 24 minutes), and similar records across Sweden, Spain and Portugal.

How many tickets did I get? Zero.

If you like speeding tickets, higher insurance premiums, giving your money to the government and trusting people you’ve never met, DeMuro’s your guy. If you don’t, let’s learn why detectors still matter by deconstructing DeMuro’s article line-by-line, starting with the headline:

“Radar Detectors Are Useless Now”

Did DeMuro consult with anyone before his making this sweeping generalization? RDforum.com and RadarDetector.net have tens of thousands of posts from avid detector users. If he needed a second or third opinion on the efficacy of detectors, not only does he have my phone number, he’s friends with Ed Bolian, who broke our Cannonball Run record in 2013 using the same detector I use.

I’ve recently come to a conclusion about radar detectors—an item that many car enthusiasts have considered crucial to avoiding speeding tickets for the last few decades. And my conclusion is: these days, in these modern times, they’re useless. It’s over. There’s simply no point in having a radar detector anymore.

I get emails on a daily basis from car enthusiasts asking what detector to buy. Does DeMuro? Maybe this was his way on cutting down on e-mails and comments he didn’t want to (and couldn’t) answer. That opening paragraph is perfectly constructed to maximize SEO. That last sentence? A beautiful slug complementing the title in Google search results.

Read the rest over at The Drive

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:

Read the rest over at The Drive…

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.

Read the rest over at The Drive

Why Were These Posts About The New “Cannonball Run” Deleted From Reddit?

27 Oct

Cannonball Run

My op-eds “Cannonball Run Founder Dies, New “Cannonball Run” Spits on His Grave” & “New “Cannonball Run” Spits on Founder Brock Yates’ Grave, Part Deux” have proven quite popular, so popular that two Reddit threads are filled with overwhelming supportive posts of my opinion.

What’s strange is that the second Reddit thread has had several supportive comments deleted.

I guess someone didn’t like what I had to say. I wonder who deleted the above thread, and why?

New “Cannonball Run” Spits on Founder Brock Yates’ Grave, Part Deux

26 Oct

Cannonball Run

This weekend I spewed 2000+ words of opinion-laden invective dissecting how a new event calling itself the “Cannonball Run” had betrayed the values of theoriginal — and of American car culture itself — by pretending to be something it is not.

The list of those insulted is too long to print. The list of those profiting from spitting on Cannonball Run founder Brock Yates’ grave? Short, but I don’t want to give them the satisfaction of naming them. Whatever the legalities involved, my opposition is based purely on the event being a cultural crime. Now that it has ended with a Havana bacchanal, more outrages and hypocrisy have come to light.

It didn’t take much digging to discover how much deeper the hypocrisy about “honoring” its namesake goes.

The bottom line?

The new “Cannonball Run” makes the Gumball 3000 look like The 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Read the rest over at The Drive

Cannonball Run Founder Dies, New “Cannonball Run” Spits on His Grave

23 Oct

Cannonball Run

It takes a lot of nerve to spit on a dead man’s grave, especially when his body is still warm. When that man is Cannonball Run founder Brock Yatesthe most important person in American automotive history who never ran a car company — it takes someone lacking in basic decency, with no respect for the man or his monumental contribution to car culture.

As I write this, several dozen sports cars are on their way from Lenox, Massachusetts to Key West, Florida, where they will abandon their cars, have a party, then fly to Havana for another party.

Their achievement? A celebration of exploitation, ignorance and commoditized gravitas. Their transgression? Calling their event the Cannonball Run.

Theirs may not be a legal crime — lawyers are allegedly exchanging letters — but it is without any doubt a cultural one, for which they should be held accountable. If you see a car manufactured after 1979 with “Cannonball Run” stickers, it is on an event that is the enemy of everything Brock Yates stood for, and of American car culture itself.

Read the rest over at The Drive

Brock Yates, Cannonball Run Legend, Dies At 82

6 Oct

Brock Yates

Brock Yates — automotive legend, former editor of Car and Driver, race car driver, founder of the Cannonball Baker Sea-to-Shining-Sea-Memorial Trophy Dash (a.k.a. The Cannonball Run) and One Lap of America, writer of The Cannonball Run and Smokey and The Bandit II, best-selling author of 20 books including Cannonball!, Enzo Ferrari: The Man and the Machine, Sunday Driver and Against Death & Time, godfather of speeding andgirls in supercars wearing purple zip-up pantsuits, patron saint of non-violent & unprofitable crimes, enemy of sloth, cowardice, taxes, and the 55mph speed limit, ambassador of internal combustion both foreign and domestic, human icepick in the face of convention, beloved outlaw, the man who changed Cannonball from noun to verb, launched a thousand radar detector sales and was solely responsible for 100% of Lamborghini Countach sales between 1981 and 1990 — died yesterday at the age of 82 due to complications from Alzheimer’s disease.

It is too soon to write at length about Yates’ almost incalculable contributions to car culture. I would argue that he was the most important person in American automotive history who never ran a car company.

If you have to ask why, then, like jazz… You’ll never know.

But you should know, starting with this excerpt from his August 1971 Car & Driver column, in which Yates explains why he organized the first Cannonball Run:

Read the rest over at The Drive

Alex Roy + Volvo S90 = Midnight Sun Record Run

27 Sep

Cannonball Run

Is there a Swedish Cannonball Run-style endurance driving record? I don’t know. But now there’s this. A 17 hour, 9 minute run from the top of Sweden to the bottom, using the new Volvo S90 and Pilot Assist.

I don’t always use internal combustion vehicles to set records.
But when I do—

Drive safely, my friends.

And read the full story over at The Drive

Watch This Time-Lapse Footage of the Tesla Cannonball Run Finish in Manhattan

26 Sep

Cannonball Run

Only two kinds of dashcam videos are any fun: 1) an expert lap of the Nurburgring and 2) the end of a Cannonball Run-type drive cross country. The biggest difference between them? The best Nurburgring videos are all under eight minutes, but the last eight minutes of any record run always depict two breathless men stopped at a series of red lights, looking for a bathroom.

Those days are over.

In a world where people claim such records without video, I present to you the final leg of our latest (ahem) achievement: the new Electric & Autonomous Cannonball Run records, as depicted in a gorgeous high resolution time lapse, compressed into less than 60 seconds.
This clip depicts the end of our journey, from Eastern Pennsylvania across New Jersey, through the Holland Tunnel into Manhattan, then our battle through downtown traffic to reach the Red Ball Garage.

Watch the video over at The Drive