Video: Is the autopilot in the Tesla a result of Elon Musk once wrecking an uninsured McLaren F1?

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Added in: Features

The man needs no introduction. Elon Musk without doubt is the coolest inventor, creator and a man so ahead of his time, even the clocks around him try hard to catch up. So be it the ‘Ludicrous’ mode in the Tesla S, the ridiculously cool Hyperloop, the Supersonic Musk Electric Jet or the out worldly SpaceX. They all have one in thing in common. Speed. Maybe something which the man became obsessed with after he sold one of his earlier companies and bought himself a $1,000,000 McLaren F1 as a daily driver! This on top of a 1967 Series 1 E-type Jaguar which sat pretty in the then 28-year old’s garage.

But then, something happened which probably made Mr Musk think about embedding an ‘Autopilot’ feature in the cars that would roll out of his then yet to be formed car company. In the year 2000, Elon Musk drove his McLaren F1 along Sand Hill Road in California. The Sand Hill Road has the same appeal as Wall Street in New York. It is flocked with venture capitalist companies, and provides easy access to the Stanford University and Silicon Valley. Together with Elon in the car sat his friend and co-worker Peter Thiel. They were on their way to the famous venture capital firm Sequoia Capital where they would brainstorm fund-raising strategies together with Michael Moritz. Thiel sat in one of the two passenger seats.

Interested in knowing what his friend’s latest super expensive possession was capable of, Thiel asked Elon after a fifteen minute demonstration of the car. “So what can this do?” “Watch this,” Elon replied and floored the gas pedal. The McLaren F1 has no traction control, and so the car began to spin after a lane change. Elon did what he could to avoid the other cars driving on the same road while at the same time tried to control the spinning car. After some terrifying seconds, the McLaren F1 slammed into the embankment of the road. The car lifted from the ground and began rotating like a discus flying through the air. They finally crashed down on the ground.

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When the dust cleared, Thiel heard Elon laugh. Thiel asked him why he laughed when he had just wrecked his new dream car. “You don’t know the funny part, it wasn’t even insured,” Elon replied. Elon and Thiel survived the crash without any major injuries. Before the emergency services arrived to the scene, Thiel opened the gull-winged door, stepped out of the car, and hitchhiked a ride to not miss the meeting with Sequoia Capital. Elon also hitchhiked a ride to the meeting once a tow truck arrived to the scene.

After the accident, the McLaren factory could repair the damaged car. The main body of the car had survived, but the front and the suspension were damaged. After the brief detour to the workshop, Elon Musk began using the McLaren F1 as his daily driver to and home from work again.

With excerpts from the book: The Engineer – Follow Elon Musk on a journey from South Africa to Mars