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Geek and Gadgets Set Cross-US Speed Record 805

Brikus writes "And you thought your car had gadgets. In this story from Wired magazine, we hear about Alex Roy and his quest to break the record time for a cross-USA road trip. One of the biggest roadblocks to breaking the record: highway patrol officers, about 31,000 along the way. So Roy decked out his E39 BMW M5 with a thermal camera, radar/laser detectors, GPS devices, police scanners, and other high-tech gadgets and toys."
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Geek and Gadgets Set Cross-US Speed Record

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  • Team Polizei (Score:3, Interesting)

    by User 956 ( 568564 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @02:15AM (#21006619) Homepage
    This guy's brilliant although he does have his share of rough spots with the cops. []
  • Irresponsible (Score:2, Interesting)

    by tsa ( 15680 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @02:26AM (#21006683) Homepage
    Here in Europe each year we have a bunch of super rich arrogant bastards who also make the roads even more dangerous than they already are in their attempts to cross the continent as fast as they can in their supercars. They are rich enough to pay the bills, so they don't really care about those. Speed limits are there for a reason, so stick to them! Traffic tickets should be depending on income/wealth instead of being fixed like they are now.
  • What an ass (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Bryan Ischo ( 893 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @02:27AM (#21006689) Homepage
    There must be a safer way to compensate for your small penis than endangering people on the highway across the entire USA.

    I have done my share of speeding on U.S. highways and have gotten my share of tickets too. But I don't claim to be anything other than an ass myself when it comes to driving. At least I did it mostly on a motorcycle and likely would only take myself out, which somehow to me seems a little more considerate.

    If he really wants to break the record he should do it on a motorcycle. You can bypass any traffic situation entirely with ease. You can even split through traffic going 75+ at 90 if you want to, which I did on a long straight hot boring trip down highway 5 in northern CA on the way back from Oregon. Of course I got a speeding ticket too, from a rather irate cop who couldn't catch me for miles because I kept splitting through traffic (even though I wasn't trying to outrun him, I didn't even know he was there). Like I said, I am an ass too. And I know when when I see one. And that dude is an ass.
  • by bombastinator ( 812664 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @03:17AM (#21006967)
    I vaguely remember something similar. Looking about on Google I think it was either the The Cannonball Baker Sea-To-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash, or the gumball rally.

    My probably fractured memory is that one particularly decisive win was not by a supercar, but by a Japanese king cab mini pickup. The drivers filled the be with a fuel tank and were able to drive straight through without ever stopping or breaking the speed limit. IIRC the win margin was tremendous.

    The man is trying to be cute and generate publicity by using a method which might be intended to be viewed as "cool", but if he was really going for time this very well might not the right way to do it.

    As a side note, Family legend has it that as a teenager my grandmother once participated in the north south trans U.S. speed record. IRC the average speed was something like 15mph and change. My father was born in 1925, So I'm suspecting this was around 1920 or so. High quality 20's vehicles such as Cords and Auburns could still comfortably do 70 or 80mph so I suspect the pickup method has merit.
  • Great (Score:0, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @03:56AM (#21007205)
    I think this sounds great personally 8-). This really sounds like some good old fashioned fun to me. It sounds like he may have overplanned with all the thick books and manuals, but what the hell. You guys who are complaining are in fact a bunch of big ol' blubbering pussies.

              I ripped across from Pennsylvania to Iowa at a ~80MPH average and it was great fun, and quite safe. Ya just have to use the common sense to not blow through traffic, speed along when there isn't traffic. And, definitely, have a Valentine One. I've got one and it's great.

  • Re:What an ass (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Bryan Ischo ( 893 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @04:04AM (#21007241) Homepage
    You're probably right. With training I would think you could do it, but it would be difficult. When I go on long trips the first day I have trouble sitting 6 hours in the saddle. By the third or fourth day I can do 10 hours. But 32 hours would be really, really difficult.

    They have 24 hour endurance races on motorcycles and they split it between three riders so each only has to do 8 hours. One hour on, two hours rest. Then again, those guys are driving 120 - 150 mph on twisty race tracks and pushing it to the edge for the entire hour they are out there. This cross-country dude just has to go 100 - 110 on the highway, after less than an hour I am sure you would acclimate to it and it wouldn't feel any faster than 65 does normally.

  • Re:How stupid... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @05:25AM (#21007653)
    These are also the same group people that killed an innocent couple during last years gumball. How many will they kill this year? []
  • by Corporate Troll ( 537873 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @07:49AM (#21008387) Homepage Journal

    "Oh, that car is still several hundred meters away".

    As someone who has actually driven 250km/h on an Autobahn: if you drive at these speeds you need to keep traffic in the eye at all moments. You know a driver in front of you will not realize that you'll be there very quickly and as such it is your responsibility to foresee what other drivers might do. A car that is 500m away is a potential hazard already, so you pay attention to it even if the road is clear in front of you. At the moment you even see it slightly veer to the passing lane, you hit the brakes.

    Driving at these speeds is exhausting if you're not trained. I can't do it for much longer than 20 minutes, without falling back and going to a more reasonable 160km/h.

  • Re:How stupid... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by EvanED ( 569694 ) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [denave]> on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @07:56AM (#21008435)
    Yes, but they left the scene of the accident, and tried to flee the country.

    The mitigating factors you mention may bring them down from "string them up by their thumbs" to "super asshole who deserves prison", but the latter is still not a very good state.
  • Re:Team Polizei (Score:2, Interesting)

    by lazy_playboy ( 236084 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @10:16AM (#21009949)
    US drivers are weird. In Britian in moderately heavy commuter traffic it's unusual for any cars to be going under 70mph. Most are travelling between 75-85mph, and a few at 85-95mph. It's not usual for someone to pass at over 100mph. But US drivers have a coronary if someone even thinks about pushing past 70...

    And we have very few problems. Speed kills? My arse it does. Most British drivers (especially commuter drivers) are good at regularly checking mirrors, and if someone is coming up rapidly will usually pull in to let the car pass. Not everyone does because some people are arses about it, but we have very few accidents none-the-less.

    You speak of a 2 second gap being closed too quick for you to cope with... surely you can judge how quickly a car is approaching in the mirror? If the car is approaching rapidly, just let it pass before pulling out! It's not hard, is it?

    Oh, are Americans taught to signal before checking the mirror? That's a bit of a no-no here for good reason. You only indicate after you've checked it's clear, otherwise a driver in the bit of road where you want to be might think that you've not seen them and take potentially dangerous avoiding action.

    How many accidents did Roy cause? None, I'll bet. Of course it's a silly thing to do, but he's not biting babies heads off.
  • Re:How stupid... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by RESPAWN ( 153636 ) <> on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @10:41AM (#21010301) Homepage Journal
    Note, I'm not defending the Porsche drivers, but here's a question I think everybody needs to ask themselves: what would I do if involved in a fatal accident in a 3rd world nation? This didn't happen in the US or England or any other developed 1st world nation where we can count on a properly functioning justice system to determine that the event was indeed an accident and not instead give us a (very short) life sentence in some back woods 3rd world prison. I personally am not sure what I would do, but I can see where it would be easy to panic.

    Additionally, as a fan of the Gumball I kept close tabs on the Macedonian accident story. While I don't have a link, I do remember reading that the Macedonian accident investigators royally botched some part of the investigation, lending further creedance that the justice system in Macedonia may not function quite as it should. Of course, the flip side of the coin is that many people state that part of the reason the drivers got off was due to large "donations" to several parties, including the family of the deceased and members of the government. With no evidence either way, who's to say if the "donations" actually happened, but the claims were more food for thought.

    Lastly, let me say that I think Maximillion Cooper, the organizer of the Gumball, handled the accident situation very poorly. From all reports, he allowed the rally to go on for a full day after the accident before he cancelled it. Next year he's planning to take the rally through North Korea. I think he's a conceited asshole who's letting his pride and image get in the way of what little safety there was on the Gumball.
  • by k2enemy ( 555744 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @11:30AM (#21011115)

    Anybody who sells a car designed to be driven over 100mph should as a matter of course point their customers to the nearest track. It'd probably be good for business.

    When I lived in Kansas City, the local Audi dealership included free membership to the Audi Club North America with the purchase of a car. The local chapter of the club organized many high performance driving schools/events at tracks around the midwest and it was a great way for people to learn the limits of their car and their own driving ability. Besides learning how to drive fast on the track you learn some non-trivial accident avoidance techniques.

    The dealership has since changed hands, so I'm not sure if they still do this.
  • Re:Team Polizei (Score:5, Interesting)

    by DudeTheMath ( 522264 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @12:06PM (#21011737) Homepage

    I said nothing about my inability to cope with a gap closed in two seconds; I'm worried about the guy coming up behind me. I'm pretty good at judging how quickly someone's approaching, and letting the guy who's going 80 pass me before I pull out to do 70 around the guy who's going 65.

    What I'd hoped to express is that someone going 140 is completely out of the ken of the American driver. It's entirely possible that someone going 70mph faster than me is not even visible when I form the intent to pass (and first check my mirror: I was taught check, signal, then check again), or is just so far back that his speed can't be accurately judged.

    And as far as biting babies' heads off: Someone roared up behind a couple I know who were passing someone else, and sat on their bumper at 75mph (in a 55mph zone) honking and flashing. As soon as they were ahead of the car they were passing, they signalled and pulled back into the center lane only to be creamed by someone coming in from the right. The asshole who'd forced them over probably never knew he'd been the effective cause of an accident behind him. Their toddler, properly strapped in the back seat, was killed by a bumper that came over the back deck. Amazingly, they're still together.

  • by spun ( 1352 ) <> on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @12:23PM (#21012023) Journal
    Why do you lack depth perception? I've only got one working eye and my depth perception past six feet is fine. You don't use binocular vision for depth perception past six feet. You use it for things like threading needles or leaping at prey.
  • Re:Team Polizei (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Mattintosh ( 758112 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @01:33PM (#21013125)
    the US should make the drivers license exam (the practical part) a lot harder

    Agreed on the tests-should-be-harder part, but I hate to burst your bubble here. "The US" doesn't issue driver's licenses. Each state is responsible for that. There is no federal driver's license.

    Driving on a mountain-side road with a lot of hairpin-turns in a manual gearbox car (possibly on snow or other bad conditions), teaches one about driving more than 1000 hours on a motorway.

    And this is why each state is responsible for its own driving tests. The highest mountain peak in the state I live in (Missouri) is about 1500 ft. above sea level. And you can't really drive up it (it's Taum Sauk Mountain, which is privately owned and has a broken reservoir on top of it). The worst driving conditions in this state are: 1) The interstates, 2) the bog-mire country roads, and 3) anywhere in suburban St. Louis or Kansas City. In that order.

    Learning to drive on the interstates is an exercise in keeping yourself mentally awake despite not seeing anything noteworthy for miles. The reward for this is your life. Failure means death under the rear wheels of a tractor-trailer.

    Learning to drive on crappy country roads is an exercise that teaches how not to get stuck. Failure means calling and paying a tow-truck, or at least Farmer John down the road, who probably has a tow chain and a diesel farm truck with enough torque to remove you from the mud ruts.

    Learning to drive in suburban hell is a must if you are going to ever buy something anywhere in this state. Real shops don't exist in urban and rural areas. Urban areas get the foo-foo shops (coffee shops, restaurants, antiques stores, artisans' shops, etc.). Rural areas are heavy on machinery repair, gas stations, and a select few fast-food joints. But the good-intention-paved streets of suburbia are where you can actually buy things you need in day-to-day life. Like toilet paper. And shoes. The reward for learning how to deal with driving those streets of hell is, again, your life. If you fail this test, you are undoubtedly pinned between a BMW containing a dead guy with two cellphones embedded in his head and an SUV (a.k.a. "Yuppie Tank" or "Urban Assault Vehicle") containing one clueless soccer-mom that swears she did nothing wrong, despite the obvious fact that Bimmer Boy is dead and you're soon to be.

    What really needs to happen, though, is a change in the law and a change in the enforcement of the law. One of these things is not like the others... see if you can spot it.

    Q: Why should you stop for a red light?
    A: Because someone else will probably hit you if you don't.

    Q: Why should you signal before turning or changing lanes?
    A: Because someone else will probably hit you if you don't.

    Q: Why should you turn into the near lane instead of the far lane?
    A: Because someone else will probably hit you if you don't.

    Q: Why should you obey the speed limit?
    A: Because the cops will write you a ticket if you don't.

    Speed limits don't prevent anything. In fact, most accidents during the morning commute (statistically, the highest accident rate is during the morning rush hour) are at a low speed, when everyone is going 35 mph on the interstate (where the speed limit is 60). So here's a thought... instead of punishing "maybe-crime", punish actual crime. You went too fast? Who cares? You ran into someone? That's a violation of motor vehicle laws. The primary law in the matter says that you must keep your vehicle under control at all times. An accident is a loss of control (unless you meant to hit someone, in which case it's vehicular assault). If you hit someone, you've harmed them, either physically or financially. Who's the victim when you break the speed limit? Nobody. It's just about half a notch short of thought crime.

    So get rid of speed limits and teach people how to avoid causing accidents instead of how to avoid the cops. Then impose strict penalties upon those that cause accidents. That alone would fix most of the problems on the roads in the US.
  • by John Sokol ( 109591 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @02:09PM (#21013705) Homepage Journal

    Roy is attempting to break a legendary cross-country driving record known to most people as the Cannonball Run. The time: 32 hours, 7 minutes, set in 1983 by David Diem and Doug Turner.

    I grew up in New Jersey just 14 Miles from NYC. But have lived in California since I turned 18.

    One thing I have alway found is anything above 120 Mph and the cops would turn on their lights and just disappear into the distance behind me.
    When I was in High School in New Jersey we used to do this regularly to mess with the cops on Interstate 80, We would even pelt them with eggs as we passed them doing over 120Mph.
    Just in case we had also taken some other measures such as the ability to monitor and jam police radio's.
    I also had a US WW2 surplus Super high power flash tube designed for night airial photography.
    This was capable of igniting a news paper near by, we placed in the rear window, fortunately never got to try it in traffic, but at the top of Garret Mountain facing New York City we could make the whole skyline light up. Let's not mention the bowling balls, super balls, and oh yea and the rail road flairs.

    Ok, So maybe I/we were a bit out of control..

    After I moved to CA, every year I used to take I-80 the whole distance to NY and back, to visit my parents. Always flat out pedal to the metal.

    On my first trip I easily beat this record with a 30 hour driver using a beater. 1979 Mercury Montego Station Wagon with a souped up engine in 1987. I was hitting a top speed of over 150 Mph. The started motor didn't work, so I couldn't even turn off the engine because we'd never get the car started again.
    I had stopped to rest with the engine idling a few times so some time was lost there.
    In Nevada I was ticked for doing 130Mph, The same cop had chased me from Elko to the CA boarder, when I made the mistake of slowing down to 40 to appreciate the incredible view just before the California Boarder. I had even stopped in Reno to get some gas.
    Photo from that trip right after cop ticketed me. []

    My best time was 28 hours from Redwood City California to New York City around 3000 Miles in a 1990 Nissan Sentra in 1992, while listening to Ozzy's Mama I'm Comin Home. My wife has just left me and went back to NJ and I was a tad upset at the time.

    The other big trick is to pick times that avoid rush hour when passing through larger cities.

  • by KudyardRipling ( 1063612 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @08:10PM (#21018753)
    First, there are too many lawyers per capita in the USA.

    As for the scouting method, there was an idea floating around in the mid 1980's called playing football with cars or caterpillar tracks. Communications would employ modified CB radios with voice inversion, sideband channels above CB but below ten meter amateur. A train of vehicles each separated by fixed fractions of a mile the sum of which would be in the order of miles. The vehicles travelling at posted speeds would scan for Road Nazis(TM) [guess which US state I'm from. Hint: The only one where DWI is not a criminal offence for fear of jury nullification]. When all is clear, the vehicle in the back of the train would speed up to overtake the first of the train and assume the lead until the next one arrives. Should activity be detected, the speeding traffic would merge into the posted speed traffic. Nowadays, cell phone jammers in each vehicle would be used to surpress ratting motorists nearby.

Testing can show the presense of bugs, but not their absence. -- Dijkstra