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

And The Dumbest Criminal In The Automotive World Trophy Goes To…

21 Nov

Car Theft

I’ve always wondered what goes on in my garage at night. You know, after I hand the keys to the attendant. Will he take my Morgan out for a spin? Then I survey row upon row of AMG, RS, and M cars, and I know beloved jalopy is safe. There are cameras everywhere. This is Manhattan. If someone saw it cruising around, it’d be on Instagram in fifteen minutes, and it wouldn’t take long to figure out where it came from.

I’m not saying stealing cars is ever a good idea — although trying can be fun — but I AM saying that stealing cars entrusted to you by the owner is a VERY bad idea.

Incredibly, It looks like one Umair Bhatti — the man behind London-based sports car storage business Garaged.comis exactly that dumb.

Read the rest over at The Drive

We Need An NRA-Type Lobby for Human Driving

15 Nov

NRA For Human Driving

I love cars, and I love driving. I’m lucky enough to spend my life around amazing cars and drivers as passionate about them as I am. Most, I assume, are good people. The others? They’re killing it for the rest of us. Being passionate about cars isn’t the same thing as being passionate about driving. If it was, insurance rates for Evos and STIs would be cheap. For Ferraris? Free, except for theft coverage.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for autonomy for those who need it, but human driving—and enthusiast culture with it—is doomed unless those who would claim to love it do more than lease high-end cars and buy aftermarket wheels and exhausts. If enthusiasts want to retain the freedom to drive anything, anywhere, at any time, driving has to become as sacred as the cars on the posters on our childhood bedroom walls.

We face two possible futures, with but a single bitter dose of medicine separating one from the other. There’s still hope—if we take action before it’s too late.

Read the rest over at The Drive

What Tesla’s Paid Supercharging Announcement Really Means

7 Nov

Tesla Supercharging

It couldn’t last forever. Tesla will begin charging for use of its Supercharging network, according to a statement released this morning. Free charging was one of Tesla’s big selling points, but it wasn’t the only one. Tesla possesses the largest high-speed EV charging network in the world, but with wait times climbing and the Model 3 inbound, Tesla needs a lot more infrastructure, and someone has to pay for it.

But there’s a lot more going on here than just charging.

Here’s what we know:

“Teslas ordered after January 1, 2017, 400 kWh of free Supercharging credits (roughly 1,000 miles) will be included annually so that all owners can continue to enjoy free Supercharging during travel. Beyond that, there will be a small fee to Supercharge which will be charged incrementally and cost less than the price of filling up a comparable gas car.”

“These changes will not impact current owners or any new Teslas ordered before January 1, 2017, as long as delivery is taken before April 1, 2017.”

Now let’s read between the lines, and also pose some questions:

Read the rest over at The Drive

The Cancelled Comma One Would Have Embarrassed The Car Industry

31 Oct

Comma One

George Hotz—the infamous hacker known for unlocking the iPhone and reverse engineering the Playstation 3—has cancelled his first product, the Comma One, an aftermarket Advanced Driver Assistance System (ADAS) he claimed would replicate Tesla Autopilot for $1000.

Hotz’s initial tweets suggested his move was in response to an inquiry from NHTSA, stating that he “would much rather spend life building amazing tech than dealing with regulators and lawyers,” and that Comma.ai would be “exploring other products and markets.” Twenty-four hours after the cancellation, Hotz called me from China. Asked if he was genuinely intimidated by NHTSA’s letter, he said, “I’ve got two words for you: stealth mode.”

“Stealth mode” sure doesn’t sound like he’s backing down.

Does anyone really believe Hotz would give up with $3M+ in the bank and VC firm Andreessen Horowitz behind him? Hotz could have responded to NHTSA. He just didn’t want to. With a lean operation, a growing pool of crowdsourced data and seemingly unlimited swagger, Hotz just bought himself press, time and additional mythos. Three things every founder prays for in bed at night — courtesy of the NHTSA.

Most importantly, Hotz has a working prototype — which I recently witnessed in action — that was functionally superior and theoretically safer than the ten legacy manufacturer systems I tested just last week.

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?

Autonocast: The First Podcast Dedicated To Self-Driving Cars

26 Oct

 

autonocast

Autonocast, the first ever podcast solely dedicated to Self-Driving Cars, has launched. Four episodes in, host Damon Lavrinc has so far tempered the heated opinions of Ed Neidermeyer and myself as we debate all things autonomous.

I suggest tuning in weekly to hear what Damon and his guests have to say.

Episode #1: Alex, Damon, and Ed sit down to discuss the fed’s new guidance on automated vehicles

Episode #2: Alex, Ed, and Damon are back to discuss the realities of AV adoption, how horrid drivers ed got us here, and where the hell we’re going to charge all the EVs coming out the Paris Motor Show. Also, Ed explains his latest Tesla reporting despite a dim audience and Alex continues to be annoyed at how often he agrees with Mr. N.

Episode #3: Alex, Ed, and Damon discuss the Tesla Autopilot situation in Germany and at home, Apple’s reported decision to scale back Project Titan, and why Silicon Valley is so obsessed with AVs.

Episode #4: Tesla’s big Autopilot announcement leaves more questions than answers, but it’s the picture of clarity compared to LeEco’s U.S. launch this week. And are journalists complicit in killing people when they report on the problems with autonomous technology?

Enjoy.

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

Autonomous Cars Don’t Have a ‘Trolley Problem’ Problem

19 Oct

Trolley Problem

There is an old thought experiment called the Trolley Problem that’s become central to the development of autonomous cars. In the context of self-driving cars, it sets up a scenario where an autonomously-operated vehicle approaches, say, a nun herding a group of orphans from a burning hospital. There is no time to stop or room to maneuver around the group. The car must therefore choose whether to run over the nuns and orphans, likely killing them, or swerve into the burning building, likely killing the passengers.

What should the car do?

On October 7th, Christoph von Hugo, manager of driver assistance safety systems at Mercedes-Benz, inadvertently became the first significant player at a car manufacturer to take a position on the Trolley Problem. According to von Hugo, the Self-Driving Car should run over the nun and the children.

Here’s his statement from the Paris Auto Show, as quoted in Car and Driver:

“If you know you can save at least one person, at least save that one. Save the one in the car. If all you know for sure is that one death can be prevented, then that’s your first priority.”

To be clear, this is not Mercedes’s official position on the Trolley Problem.

Read the rest over at The Drive