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

The Thomas Crown of Internal Combustion: How to Steal $10M of Cars During Monterey Car Week, Part 2

30 Sep

Thomas Crown

This is Part 2 of my investigation into how one could steal $10M of cars during Monterey Car Week. I strongly recommend reading Part 1.

Friday, August 19th: Concorso D’Italiano, Monterey

There she was. My stunning Ferrari 328 GTS, sitting at the end of a row of her sisters at the Concorso D’Italiano, just one of numerous events at Monterey Car Week where I had cars on display. I stood by her for hours, answering questions and accepting compliments on her behalf, desperate to take her home.

That might be an issue, because she wasn’t actually mine.

My name wasn’t actually on her title. She legally belonged to someone else—probably the guy in the Tommy Bahama shorts, many-pocketed safari shirt, and Ferrari-branded red jacket and baseball cap, his legs splayed out in a $19.95 K-Mart folding lawn chair—but she was mine in every way that counted.

She was mine in my heart.

I’d dreamed of her since putting the poster on my wall in 11th grade. I didn’t care if that guy paid for her; he didn’t deserve her. Cash payment isn’t ownership. If he truly loved her, he would have dressed up before taking her out for her big day. Everyone who saw me next to her knew she mine, or they wouldn’t have ignored the legal owner and walked up to me instead to praise my good taste in salmon corduroy jackets from Italian outlet malls. Also, my taste in cars.

It wouldn’t be long before she’d know a better life.

Read the rest over at The Drive

Alex Roy Tests Tesla’s Autopilot 8, Part 1

22 Sep

Autopilot 8

Tesla Autopilot 8 is finally here. I was lucky enough to get a sneak peek at the world’s most famous Beta software and test it around New York City, and my first impressions suggest my earlier predictions were fairly spot-on. Autopilot 8 is a modest step forward in user interface and functionality, but a major step forward in safety and effectiveness.

The obvious changes are cosmetic, but the biggest change—improved radar signal processing—won’t become apparent for weeks or months, after which the breadth of improvements should be incontrovertible.

Fleet Learning Is Everything

The release of Autopilot 8 within 48 hours of the DOT’s new guidelineshighlights the growing chasm between Tesla’s Level 2 semi-Autonomous suite and rivals’ deliberate pause at Advanced Driver Assistance Systems, or ADAS.

While legacy OEMs hope to reach, via localized testing, Level 4 autonomy within 3 to 5 years, Tesla’s combination of Fleet Learning and OTA updates has yielded more (and more significant) software improvements in the 11 months since Autopilot’s initial release than most manufacturers achieve in a traditional 3-5 year model cycle.

Read the rest over at The Drive

The 2036 Porsche 911E First Drive

14 Sep

2036 Porsche 911E

“It’s the end of the 911!” my dad said. This was way back in 1999. “911’s are supposed to be air-cooled!”

He was wrong, like all the skeptics were wrong again in 2016, when Porsche added turbocharging to the entire range. They were wrong again in 2019, with the arrival of the first 911 hybrid, and 2022, with the once-controversial electric 911E. How many remember the last 911 with an internal combustion engine that wasn’t a hybrid? I sure do: the year was 2030, and I was screaming louder than anyone else.

The end of the 911? Not even close. The 911 will never die.

The 2036 Porsche 911, or Projekt 999, is a breakthrough in every way a car can be—not only as a 911, or even as a Porsche, but as a sports car for everyone who believes in driving. The 999 is the first car to use technology not only to push human driving to its theoretical limit, but to transport drivers into the past.

In other words, the 999 has saved the idea of the sports car.

Read the rest over at The Drive…

Is Tesla Autopilot Actually an Autopilot?

31 Aug

Tesla Autopilot

Tesla presumably named its semi-autonomous driving suite “Autopilot” for a reason. After all, it’s not a made-up bit of marketing jargon—it’s the commonly-used term for the self-piloting technology found in aircraft.

In fact, let’s take a look at one definition of an autopilot system, from Wikipedia:

“…[A] system used to control the trajectory of a vehicle without constant ‘hands-on’ control by a human operator being required. Autopilots do not replace a human operator, but assist them in controlling the vehicle, allowing them to focus on broader aspects of operation…”

Now, let’s look at Tesla’s own description of Autopilot:

“[The system] allows [the] Model S to steer within a lane, change lanes with the simple tap of a turn signal, and manage speed…[and] while truly driverless cars are still a few years away, Tesla Autopilot functions like the systems that airplane pilots use when conditions are clear. The driver is still responsible for, and ultimately in control of, the car. What’s more, you always have intuitive access to the information your car is using to inform its actions.”

So, is Tesla Autopilot actually an Autopilot?

Read the rest over at The Drive

It’s Not Just Tesla Autopilot—Everything Is in Beta

3 Aug

Everything Is In Beta

I remember my first real girlfriend. We were eleven; promises were made. My first car? I was going to keep it forever. My parents were together, until they weren’t. I remember the girl I wanted to marry—the first girl and the third. I remember my father’s voice from the next room. Then on an answering machine, which stopped working, then on a voicemail, which I lost when I switched to T-Mobile. Then, only in my memory.

Nothing is static. The world, with all of us in it, is in a constant state of change. Everything is in beta, and anyone who says otherwise is selling you something.

Love or hate Elon Musk, his greatest societal contribution isn’t “Premium Electric Vehicles” or reusable rockets. It might just be his use of language—specifically that phrase, “in beta.” Did you think that term means “not ready,” “incomplete,” or “needs testing”? It can, and it does, but now, it also means something else: In the world of automotive technology, especially autonomy, “in beta” now means: We have to move faster.

Read the rest over at The Drive

The War For Autonomous Driving: 2017 Mercedes-Benz E-Class VS. 2017 Tesla Model S

27 Jul

Drive Pilot

Looking for a comparison of the 2017 Mercedes-Benz E-Class and the 2016 Tesla Model S? This is not that. Both are brilliant, gorgeous cars—best-of-breed luxury sedans in the war between internal combustion and electricity—but who cares?

The future belongs to Autonomous Driving.

The 2017 E-Class is the first Mercedes-Benz available with Drive Pilot—the brand name for their latest semi-Autonomous Driving (AD) suite—and is the first direct assault on Tesla’s Autopilot, which has captured the public’s imagination, for better or worse, since its release in 2015.

What is AD? It’s what happens when you combine Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) with Automatic Steering, and then a car begins to drive itself. How long, how well and how safely it does this is the difference between today and tomorrow, between semi-Autonomous and truly Self-Driving Cars.

Does Mercedes’ Drive Pilot deliver what it calls The Best or Nothing? Or is Autopilot—despite recent controversy—still the state-of-the-semi-Autonomous-art?

That depends on your expectations.

Read the rest over at The/Drive

In Defense of Tesla’s Autopilot, Part 1

8 Jul

Tesla Autopilot Accident

Before Joshua Brown was killed in his Tesla Model S while watching a movie on Autopilot, I had a conversation with my friend, Comms. “The first person to kill someone in a Tesla on Autopilot,” Comms said, “is going to be responsible for 340,000 deaths.”

Comms is an old friend working in communications for a major automotive manufacturer. He’d just spent an hour failing to convince me Elon Musk was the modern Preston Tucker, but I couldn’t argue with his newest line of reasoning.

“Nonsense,” I said. “It’s great. I know its limitations.” Continue reading

Can George Hotz “Win” Self-Driving Cars?

2 Jun

George Hotz

“Hotz wants two,” said The Spaniard, my new spy friend. I knew he was a spy. He knew I knew. I knew he knew I knew. But I knew he knew I knew first, so he respected me, and now I had a friend with more technical knowledge of Autonomous Driving than I, which made us the perfect duo to walk and talk our way through the broiling pits at SelfRacingCars—the World’s First Autonomous Track Day—at Thunderhill in Willows, California.

“Two hundred million?” I said.

“No,” he shook his head. “Two billion.”

“You know something, Spaniard? If some kid from New Jersey can get a fucking Acura to drive itself around Thunderhill without crashing, he deserves the money.”

In fifteen minutes we’d find out if the kid is worth the money, because George Hotz, a 26-year-old from New Jersey with matted hair and the comic timing of the Upright Citizens Brigade, was here to “win” Self-Driving Cars.

Read the rest over at TheDrive.com

How to Crash the World’s Most Dangerous Rental Car

25 May

Crash

“This is a very dangerous car.”

Mr. Rapido told me that. He is the chain-smoking Danny DeVito lookalike who owns Rapido Car Rental, and he’s a man you wouldn’t cross even if you hadn’t seen the “Get your shine box” scene in Goodfellas. He was reluctantly offering to rent us a car that he claimed was his personal car, a car he only drove on sunny days around Brescia—the Philadelphia of Italy—a car he loved so much that its rental rate was listed online for $1,000/day.

“Very, very dangerous,” he lit another cigarette, “especially if you touch the gas.”

And boy, was it. Read the rest over at The Drive