Alex Roy Shatters Electric and Autonomous Cannonball Run Records in a Tesla
A team in a Tesla Model S crossed the country in 55 hours, breaking the record by nearly three hours.
On August 24th, 2016, at 0126hr PST, a 2016 Tesla Model S 90D departed the Portofino Inn in Redondo Beach, California. The team of Alex Roy, Warren “Mr. X” Ahner & Franz Aliquo transited 2,877 miles to the Red Ball Garage in New York City in precisely 55 hours, shattering the Electric Vehicle (EV) Cannonball record by 2 hours & 48 minutes.
The trio also set a new Autonomous Driving (AD) Cannonball record, using Tesla’s semi-AD Autopilot 7 97.7% of the journey from coast to coast, bettering the prior record of 96.1%.
Distance: 2877 miles
Total Time: 55:00
Drive Time: 41:14
Charge Time: 13:46
Driving Average: 70 mph
There is no greater test of man and machine than endurance driving, and records, as they say, are meant to be broken. David Maher and I shattered the Cannonball Run record back in 2006, which was shattered again by Ed Bolian and Dave Black in 2013. Carl Reese and Deena Mastracci set the electric Cannonball record in 2015, and I joined them later that year to break it again, and to annihilate the semi-Autonomous record. A few weeks later, Zach Bowman and I set the 3-wheeled Cannonball record. In a Morgan. In a snowstorm. That time cannot last.
Then, as far as setting records went, I went quiet.
If you have to ask why, then you don’t know the story of Cannonball Baker.
A century ago, Erwin “Cannonball” Baker set the first of hundreds of transcontinental driving records. Manufacturers like Cadillac, Crosley and Stutz hired him to demonstrate the speed, fuel economy and reliability of their latest models. Before Eisenhower built the Interstate Highway System. Before speed limits and speed traps, and the evaporation of concepts like driver education and personal responsibility.
This wasn’t illegal. This was encouraged.
Why set an electric record?
The same reason I do so much Tesla coverage. I’m a fan of innovation. I love internal combustion, but the future lies elsewhere, at an uncertain confluence of electrification, autonomy and infrastructure, which is where Tesla lives. A new equilibrium of emerging technologies is inevitable, and I am absolutely thrilled about what is coming.
I love my ‘00 BMW M5, ‘73 Citroen SM and ‘87 911, but there is nothing more to be learned by inhaling gasoline fumes, carrying a trunkload of spare parts and babying them cross-country. Internal combustion records that stood for decades are now unlikely to be bettered by more than a minute or two—if ever. Performance envelopes are beyond the skills of most drivers, let alone road conditions.
Internal combustion has had its day.
Electric and Autonomous Driving technologies, however, are in their infancy, and the speed at which they are evolving is reflected in how quickly records for each are being shattered. Transcontinental times for both categories are now as good as (or better) than the slower vehicles in the early Cannonball races of the 70’s. As battery power density and charging times improve — and they are now improving at an incredible rate — internal combustion and pure human driving records will fall, on-track and off.
Tesla alone exists at the center of the Venn diagram of electrification, autonomy and fast charging infrastructure. Until Audi, BMW, Ford, GM, Mercedes, Porsche, Toyota or Volvo open the black leather kimonos and show us more than geo-fenced "mobility" targeted at Uber, Lyft and Didi, Tesla represents the only light in the cave of future car enthusiasm—a future where I still get to drive myself anywhere I want, using new technology as I choose to use it.
We’ve all seen hints of what the old guard is capable of. We can look to the Porsche Mission-E and Volvo’s DriveMe as examples of OEMs innovating smartly, but those are two different products in two different cars. Electrification in one, autonomy in the other. I want them in the same car, with a fast charging network, and that is what makes Tesla unique.
I promise you, the instant any of the OEMs release an EV and/or AD vehicle that will beat a Tesla cross-country, I’ll be the first person to give it a shot. A semi-autonomous internal combustion car could easily beat the Autopilot portion of our most recent record run, if only someone would lend me a car. I hear there’s a very interesting Swedish car coming down the pike, and another from China, and Germany, and then there’s Hotz’s Comma One.
I look forward to setting/breaking every internal combustion driving record possible using the next generation of emerging technologies, regardless of the source. These new records will fall, as they should, in further demonstrations of innovation and ingenuity.
We car lovers live in interesting times. Let's make it so.
Car enthusiasts have a choice. We can embrace the future and drag emerging technologies into our camp, or we can play Forza while riding in pods to work. The second will be safer, but the first protects our souls.
A healthy compromise won’t happen if we let the Luddites, cowards & $TSLA shorts kvetch about EVs, Autopilot “fails” and Elon Musk’s personal life. If I write something about cars, I didn’t make it up. I actually put my money (and my life) where my mouth is every time I get in a car. I never trust anyone who hasn’t actually done something both for and with their knowledge. As they say in Game of Thrones, I paid the iron price for my mine.
They sit. I drive.
More about about exactly how we shaved nearly three hours off the record soon. I hope. I’ve got to finish my Mille Miglia Accident Story, and the Pebble Beach Car Theft Caper, and once we wrap this story, we have four more records to announce.
It's that season.
Alex Roy is an Editor-at-Large for The Drive, author of The Driver, and set the 2007 Transcontinental “Cannonball Run” Record in 31 hours & 4 minutes. You may follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.