Confused About Winter, Californians Are Building Snowmen on Cars and Driving Around

There are a few simple rules to safe winter driving. Take your time. Slow, easy inputs on the wheel and pedals. Look farther ahead than normal. And a quick PSA to those in southern California delighting in the early-season snow currently blanketing the mountains: for the love of God, do not build a snowman on your car and drive around like that’s a sane thing to do. And while you're at it, don't try and take the season home with you by throwing snow boulders on your roof rack.

Lest you think this is a joke, observe the photos above and below, taken on the famed Angeles Crest Highway outside Los Angeles on Sunday. The winter storm that just smacked the southeast with an icy fist started its transcontinental trek last week by dumping over a foot of snow on the high peaks of the San Gabriel Mountains, less than an hour from downtown LA. The snow is still up there, visible for fifty miles, a beacon of festive seasonality in a hot, dry land.

I certainly wasn't the only one who drove up the Crest this weekend to catch a glimpse of winter. But at times, it felt like I was the only one not participating in the strange, dangerously idiotic, regional ritual of carting around a snowman on your car like a massive hood ornament or Mitt Romney’s dog. The realization came slowly. Winding my way up through the warmer, lower-elevation curves, I saw a couple cars coming back down with chunks of snow resting against the base of the windshield. Silly Californians don't know to clean off their cars, I smirked.

Anyone who's lived where it snows regularly in the winter knows how important it is to do so (plus, it's illegal to not do so in many places). A sheet of frozen snow becomes a dangerous projectile when it flies off a moving vehicle at speed, let alone a few unsecured ice boulders. But I can understand how someone with little experience in life below 32 degrees might not think about that.

What I didn't expect was people purposefully piling snow on their clean cars. Any thought of it being somehow accidental was eliminated minutes later when I passed another car with a two-foot-tall intact snowman sitting on the windshield cowl. Three body segments, stick arms, pebbles for eyes, the whole Frosty bit. I couldn't believe my eyes at first, briefly concluding I had hallucinated the two-second encounter. Then I saw another one.

That was just the beginning. The closer I got to the snow line, the more cars I saw trundling back down toward civilization with one, two, sometimes a whole family of snow people on the hood or roof. There were at least 20 of them. A few larger SUVs bore full-size snowmen on their roofs. My eyes bugged out of my head; I wanted to pull across the road, block traffic, walk up to the nearest offender, and shout What are you thinking??

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Ran up the Crest this weekend and saw at least 20 very confused Californians pulling over to build a snowman on their cars — then keep driving. Stop this madness. Stop it at once.

A post shared by The Drive (@thedrive) on Dec 10, 2018 at 3:09pm PST

What struck me most was how exceedingly normal this seemed to everyone. The sheer number of people who independently decided that this was a Thing To Do indicates that somewhere, somehow Californians got the idea that building a snowman on your car and going for a drive is a fun winter activity the whole family can enjoy. I can't believe we have to correct the record like this, but it's not. Stop it. You're better than this, California.

The snow eventually revealed itself as the road climbed further up the mountain of madness, along with the source of the snowman scourge. Nearly every pullout contained at least one stopped car with its driver hard at work stacking snow on the hood or roof to join the demented parade. Even better, I saw several people try to take the season home for Christmas by filling their roof racks or windshield cowls with piles of ice chunks.

I pulled over to absorb what I was seeing. And I couldn't have picked a perfect spot—a few dozen yards away across the road, a happy family crowded around their Infiniti QX56 as good ol' Dad built a classic snowman on the roof. Backlit with golden hour skies and framed with towering pines, the scene was oddly beautiful and sweet. It could have been a Rockwell painting, if Rockwell dabbled in postmodern absurdity in the information deficit age.

After a few minutes, the father put the finishing touches on snowman while the kids heaped more ice chunks on the windshield. Everyone piled back in the family SUV and then they were off. The father smiled at me as he passed, as if to say, Isn't this a nice day? Not for anyone unlucky enough to be behind you when the head comes off.

Winter is here, even if the calendar says we're still more than a week out from the official start of the season. There will be many more bad choices to pick apart on the internet before Spring rolls around, but it'll be hard to top the image of an oblivious Californian building a snowman on his car and driving away, confident that he's embodying the true spirit of the season. So close, man. So close.

USAF Says Insurgent Drones Are Watching One Of Its Bases In Afghanistan ’24/7′

Insurgents are using small unmanned aircraft to regularly monitor activity at a major American base in Afghanistan. This is yet another example of how the Taliban and other militant groups in the country are expanding their capabilities and further highlights the increasingly common threat of readily available commercial drones to nation-state security forces both on and off the battlefield.

Tom Lockhart, the Director of the Strategic Development Planning and Experimentation Office (SDPE) at the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), disclosed this detail during a test of various counter-drone technologies at the U.S. Army's White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico in October 2018. At present, SDPE is exploring the viability of solid-state lasers and high-power microwave directed energy weapons as base defense tools against tiny unmanned aircraft.

"Coming back from Afghanistan last year in October [2017], I was at a base where we had a lot of unmanned systems sitting over and watching everything we do," Lockhart explained in an interview at White Sands. "For the future, our airmen would like to not be monitored 24/7 and this will push that [the drones] back so they [the militants] don't have that monitoring capability."

The SDPE director did not say what base he had visited in Afghanistan. The U.S. military has personnel at various locations across the country, but the Air Force's two biggest operating locations at Bagram Airfield, situated north of the capital Kabul, and Kandahar Airfield in the southern province of the same name. Another AFRL researcher was assigned to Bagram in July 2017, supporting a field test of unspecified counter-drone systems.

"Air Force has three major areas [of directed energy research and development], air base defense, precision engagement, and aircraft self-protect," Dr. Michael Jirjis, Chief for Directed Energy Experimentation at AFRL, added in his own interview at White Sands. Base defense "is the first, probably near-term low-hanging fruit that we can actually get after as we start opening up the bottleneck for directed energy, transitioning it ... to operationalizing it."

Video of the testing at White Sands, seen above, shows at least three different systems at work. Two of these were solid-state lasers, while the last one was a high-power microwave. All three have various sensors, including electro-optical and infrared cameras, to spot and track their targets.

Lasers physically destroy their targets, burning holes in them, while high-power microwaves might simply disrupt the drone's ability to communicate with its operator. A burst of high-power microwave energy would also be enough to fry the electronics inside the unmanned aircraft, depending on how powerful the directed energy beam is and how far away the target is from the weapon.

The first of the laser-based counter-drone systems was a trailer-mounted arrangement from defense contractor L3, which appeared visually similar, if smaller, to the proven AN/SEQ-3 Laser Weapon System (LaWS) that the company developed for the U.S. Navy. Developing a static, land-based version would be a relatively low-cost and low-effort way of producing at least an interim laser base defense system with a known capability to destroy small drones.

The other laser system was from Raytheon. The Massachusetts-headquartered company debuted the turreted weapon system, which uses many components from its Multi-Spectral Targeting System (MTS) sensor turret, in 2017.

Raytheon has been demonstrating this directed energy weapon using the popular Polaris MRZR all-terrain vehicle as the platform, highlighting its compact design and rapid deployability. For Air Force base defense purposes, where drones might only appear briefly at extreme edges of critical infrastructure on the base before retreating to safety, having a mobile system would be especially valuable.

On top of that, directed energy weapons are notoriously sensitive to environmental conditions, with the beams often becoming more diffuse at extended ranges. A mobile platform could help mitigate these issues, since the operators would have more flexibility to simply close the distance to the target.

The high-power microwave, another Raytheon product, was another trailer-mounted system, but was significantly larger than L3's laser weapon. The design is reminiscent of microwave directed energy weapons the U.S. military has been developing to disable vehicles on the ground, such as car bombs that might be speeding toward a base's main gate. It is possible that either laser or microwave-based systems could have secondary roles engaging targets on the ground, as well.

As SDPE's Director Lockhart noted, these systems have given even small, non-state groups a cheap and readily available tool to monitor their opponents as never before. For the Taliban, or other insurgent groups in Afghanistan, having that capability would help them track force movements within the base to help plan or execute attacks. The could also observe forces arriving or departing the base, which could signal an impending offensive or a shift in attention to another region.

A 2016 briefing slide describing development of a high-power microwave-based

Videos that these small drones might capture have a propaganda value as well, especially if taken during an actual attack. The Taliban, among other insurgent groups around the world, are well aware of how useful this footage is for recruitment efforts and for sapping the morale of their opponents.

Militants have shown that these small drones can be weaponized, too, which makes them even more dangerous. ISIS, in Iraq and Syria, helped shove the image of a modified quad- and hex-copters dropping small grenade-like munitions into the modern military consciousness. In January 2018, Syrian rebels conducted a relatively long-range mass drone attack on Russian bases in that country, helping to further highlight the evolving scope of the threat.

In August 2018, Venezuela's dictatorial President Nicolas Maduro survived an assassination attempt by hex-copters loaded with explosives, making it clearer than ever that concerns about these systems are hardly limited to traditional conflicts. Even if the small bomblets that these drones are capable of carrying do not do significant damage to their targets, their ability to strike at opponents, often with little warning, in areas that nation-state security forces often view as safe, can only have a demoralizing effect.

So, it's not surprising that the Taliban may be making even greater use of small drones than in the past. The group has already been working to expand their technological capabilities to enable steadily bolder attacks on Afghan security forces and the U.S.-backed coalition when they least expect it. Night vision, especially, has given the insurgents a means of challenging America's long-held advantages during engagements after dark. It has provided the militants with a decided edge over more poorly equipped Afghan troops and police, too.

Of course, this threat is hardly new, but the United States is still playing catch-up after decades of almost completely ignoring potential aerial threats, manned or otherwise, entirely. The directed energy weapons the Air Force was testing out at White Sands are just some of a wide array of man-portable, mobile, and static defense systems that the U.S. military as a whole is testing now as it rushes to fill these obvious capability gaps.

These include everything from shotguns firing small nets to automatic cannons, hit-to-kill interceptors, and missiles. There are individual jammers that can block the signal to the drone from the operator and even other drones to intercept and destroy incoming threats.

US Marines test the IXI Technology Dronekiller, a portable jammer that a single individual can carry and employ to disrupt a small drone's link with its operator, potentially causing it to crash.

Various companies are developing new and improved supporting sensors, including compact radars, to improve the ability of a complete system to detect and engage small targets. As concerns about hobby drones have grown, an entire industry working on countermeasures has grown with it.

Swarms of drones networked together and operating in concert look to be the next evolution of the threat. This, in turn, is already driving the development of new defenses.

Hopefully, the Air Force will be able to prove that directed energy weapons for base defense are indeed "low-hanging fruit" and field one or more operational systems in the near term. The SDPE's director can attest himself, the threat of small drones is not only real, but is an issue Amercian personnel are staring down every day in real conflict zones without necessarily having ways to combat them.

Contact the author: jtrevithickpr@gmail.com

It Turns Out Rally America Is Now a Media Outlet Instead of a Racing Series

Rallying's recent history in America has been a bit convoluted, and it all revolves around Rally America.

In 2016, the new American Rally Association organization was formed as a non-profit in response to ongoing concerns that the for-profit Rally America group wasn't promoting the sport enough as entry fees became more expensive. Its most visible competitor, Subaru, also primarily competed in the new ARA series for the initial 2017 season along with several of Rally America's biggest events. Yet Rally America stuck around for 2017 and 2018, continuing to put on their own calendar of events.

Sadly, it seems as if America couldn't support two rally series at once. Rallying still isn't as popular here as fans of mud and gravel would like, despite all of The Hoonigans' best efforts. So, Rally America announced today that they'll be shifting from being a series of their own to being a media service. In other words, they're finally going to do more on the promotion side, just as critics wanted them to years ago—only they'll be focusing on that exclusively.

This should make it easier than ever to follow along with favorite cars and teams, as Rally America will be doing its own original coverage of rallies in North America, both on Rally America's main page, Rally America's social channels and its newly relaunched iRally service. Chris Leone, who worked as the media director of Global RallyCross for years, is heading up media efforts at Rally America and iRally. That's another good sign, as Leone was part of the relentless hustle-machine that drove GRC to prominence in spite of all the drama happening behind the scenes.

Most of Rally America's events have now shifted to the ARA season calendar for next year. Competitors who paid to enter Rally America's Rally Wyoming event that was ultimately canceled for low entry numbers will be getting a refund, per Rally America owner Bill Fogg, as they won't host a next season to apply those fees towards.

This isn't the first time Rally America has existed as a support service to other rally groups. It originally formed in 2003 to take care of timing and scoring at SCCA ProRally events, and took over the series' commercial and sanctioning rights in 2005.

However, Rally America is certainly stepping into the place that's the most needed. Rally in America is still pretty underappreciated, as there aren't a lot of big-budget efforts out there promoting the sport to a wider audience besides Subaru and the occasional Hoonigan appearance. On one hand, that means it's easier than ever for you to get involved in as a volunteer—if you want. On the other hand, it's made keeping track of your friend's Golf tough until they Instagram where it crashed.

Rallying is far too cool to speed through the woods unnoticed, so it's hard not to feel a bit optimistic about Rally America's promotion-centric plans for the future. Maybe we'll even attract a second manufacturer to gun for overall ARA wins!

2019 Lexus ES 350 New Dad Review: Smooth Is Good, But Is It Enough to Woo Families Away from SUVs?

I finally did it: I'm a dad. The funny thing is, I've always owned dad cars, even before I needed to. Owning anything with less than four doors never made much sense, which is how I ended up with a stable of souped-up grandpa cars from the Sixties and Seventies. Now that I'm a father, the '74 Oldsmobile sedan I brought my wife and son home from the hospital in seems a bit dated. And that, my friends, is how I found myself on this quest to find the perfect new dad car. The latest contender: The 2019 Lexus ES 350 in Ultra Luxury trim.

The 2019 Lexus ES 350 Ultra Luxury, By the Numbers

  • Base Price (Price as Tested): $44,275 ($53,399)
  • Powertrain: 3.5-liter V-6, 302 horsepower, 267 pound-feet of torque; eight-speed automatic transmission; front-wheel drive
  • EPA Fuel Economy: 22 mpg city; 33 mpg highway
  • 0-60 MPH: 6.6 seconds;
  • Top Speed: 131 mph
  • Random dad fact: The Lexus ES may look fancy, but it rides upon the same Toyota New Global Architecture-K platform underpinning the Toyota Camry, Avalon, and RAV4.

From 30 feet away, it's easy to mistake the all-new Lexus ES 350 for a Toyota Avalon. The two cars—large luxury sedans, both—share similar body lines and rear fascias. The ES 350's grille is more elegant than the Avalon's wacky omelette splatter of black plastic, but they have the same soul.

I liked the ES 350. I liked the Avalon even better. (Somehow, it was sportier than the ES 350). But my old man-like car preferences aren't enough going to save Toyota's big sedans from history's dustbin. Sales numbers seem to have sounded the death knell for the family sedan, and although a spike in fuel prices could change that, American car buyers seem to have decided that they prefer cargo capacity and truck-like posture to the sleek, dignified lines and generally superior fuel economy of a well-designed sedan.

But Lexus, Toyota's luxury marque, has decided to make a last ditch effort to win over younger buyers by giving the ES 350 more kinetic styling. Even standing still, the lines swooshing back from its scrunched, stretched grille shape give the car an appearance of swift motion. I guess the idea is that the ES 350 is supposed to be sporty, which it's not. Unless you buy it in F Sport trim...and even said F Sport's sport cred is questionable.

For younger buyers, many of whom have families composed partly of even younger people, the important question is simple: How does the ES 350 perform as a family hauler? As far as sedans go—and its other trivial faults aside—not bad.

Allow me to elaborate. First of all, the ES 350 is a big car with a big, box-shaped trunk. That matters if you have a child safety seat in the back row, and even more so if you have two car seats back there. Plenty of legroom front and rear means there's space for both your government-mandated child-sized wannabe-ejection-seats for the kids and the front seat passenger who doesn't want to sit with their knees all scrunched up against the dash (and the driver, who simply can't). The trunk is deep from front to back, and fits a stroller lengthwise with plenty of space for a large suitcase and a bunch of smaller bags and items stuffed in around the sides. In other words, you can have your stroller and eat your groceries, too.

Second, the ride is smooth. Attributes like "floaty" and "soft" are anathema to the performance car aficionado, but to the infant who has just crushed eight ounces of formula (or the toddler who has just power-stuffed wads of kale and macaroni into his or her gullet), a harsh ride is just another excuse to vomit previously-eaten nutrients all over your car's nice leather. Smooth is good. The seats are comfortable, too, which made a grueling post-Thanksgiving slog less of a chore than if seat-related fatigue had been a factor.

Third, compared with other cars in its segment, the ES 350 is a bargain. In fully-loaded Ultra Luxury trim (that sounds so Japanese, doesn't it?), the ES 350 costs a little over $53,000. That's the price of a base BMW 5 Series that lacks almost any of the expensive options most luxury customers will want, and it's thousands less than the starting prices of the Audi A6 and the Acura RLX. It also gets good fuel economy compared with other cars in its class—another aspect sure to score points with the well-heeled-but-thrifty dad.

Neither the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety nor the federal government have released crash test ratings yet for the ES 350, but IIHS ratings for the TNGA-K platform-based Avalon serve as a sort of a speculative crystal ball as to how the ES 350 will fare. The Avalon aced its safety tests, for what it's worth; still, we're talking about your family's safety here, so it's easy to understand if you want to wait until the professional crashers have offered their assessment.

The ES 350 may not be as exciting to drive as an A6 or even an RLX, but that may not be the point. It's a Toyota deep down, and as such is a practical car, even if it is fancy. Buyers can be reasonably certain that ES 350 ownership will be trouble-free, which is the best anyone can expect of any car. Whether or not that will be enough to entice people of child-rearing age away from more practical crossover options remains to be seen. Based upon precedent, though, it seems likely that the ones showing up at the Lexus lot this year with desires of ES ownership will be the graying empty-nesters who have flocked to this car in years past.

BMW Kills 3 Series Wagon in the U.S., New-Gen Wagon Will Only Be Offered Overseas

BMW confirmed Monday that it will not sell the redesigned G20 generation of its 3 Series sedan in the station wagon body style to American customers.

The Bavarian automaker will continue to manufacture and market the 3 Series wagon elsewhere, possibly even as an M3 wagon, but not stateside. Some automakers sell wagon variants of their sedans in North American markets outside the U.S. such as the Mercedes-Benz C-class. The Drive contacted BMW regarding its plans for the 3 Series wagon in Canada and Mexico, but we've yet to hear back.

"BMW of North America has no plans to bring the next generation 3 Series Sports Wagon to the US market," a company spokesperson told CarBuzz.

Wagons have become increasingly unpopular with American consumers over the last three decades, with the minivan, SUV, and crossover successively hammering nails into the body style's coffin. Even the sedans on which they're based make up a decreasing proportion of new vehicle sales every year, with crossovers tempting swaying many buyers that may otherwise end up in a wagon or minivan.

Availability of other niche options on the G20 generation of 3 series is being scaled back as well, especially with regard to manual transmissions. Three-pedal models will be available only as entry-level 318d or 320d diesel models, whose availability stateside will be slim to none. The classic enthusiast's choice will be replaced by a paddle-shifted, eight-speed "sport automatic" on the majority of 3 Series sold, sporting M models included.

Chevrolet Won’t Reveal Mid-Engined C8 Corvette at Detroit Auto Show in January: Report

If you’ve been eagerly awaiting the reveal of the mid-engined C8 Corvette, we’ve got bad news for ya. Much to our surprise, General Motors doesn't have any plans to debut it at the 2019 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit, which kicks off its media-only days Jan. 14.

According to GM Authority, the Chevrolet division won't reveal a single thing at the show, meaning that the C8 will stay under wraps for a little while longer. How much longer? They won't say, but we did learn that the only new GM product that will be unveiled at NAIAS is the 2020 Cadillac XT6.

While Detroit seems like the obvious place to launch the new Corvette, Chevrolet might have a trick or two up its sleeve. After all, the C1 1953 Corvette, the granddaddy of them all, was originally revealed in New York City at GM's Motorama. If the American automaker decides to go that route, it would mean that the Corvette faithful would have to wait until the very end of April 2019 to see the new creation.

After waiting decades for a homegrown, world-class supercar with a Corvette badge; what's a few more months? At this point, we have seen numerous spy photos, patent documents, and even possible names for the mid-engine Corvette. Seeing the production version is more or less a formality by now—albeit a very important one.

The Drive reached out to Chevrolet for an official word on the Corvette's debut, but as expected, the answer was standard.

"We have nothing to announce in terms of timing for reveal of any additional future product," a Chevrolet spokesperson told The Drive via email.

We're certainly hoping for New York. Any longer and the C8 Corvette will turn into the modern-day Acura NSX, which paraded international auto shows for several years before going on sale.

Elon Musk Claims Tesla’s Autopilot Will Soon Handle Stop Signs, Street Lights, and Roundabouts

Elon Musk, the brilliant Tesla CEO whose one true kryptonite on earth is Twitter, tweeted some big plans for Tesla's Navigate on Autopilot system recently. Musk says they're already working on getting the system to navigate stop signs, street lights, and roundabouts.

He also reiterated that he wants Tesla's cars to be able to navigate a parking lot and park all on their own, without the need for a driver's input—which he previously tweeted that he'd like to see in action by 2019.

As Musk notes, the Navigate on Autopilot system is available to Teslas built in the past couple of years. Currently, it can navigate on-ramps and off-ramps, and it gives drivers suggestions for lane changes while it is engaged.

Yet it's also worth noting that Musk didn't outline how these additions to Navigate on Autopilot will work, how long they've been testing this feature, when the company expects to deploy it, or how it will work. Musk didn't even note as to whether they've run this idea past federal regulators like those of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, who will no doubt look at anything that performs more tasks for a driver with extreme suspicion.

Being able to navigate city streets on Autopilot would be a huge step forward for Navigate on Autopilot, but it also raises more concerns as to how the system would keep its drivers engaged.

Tesla's Autopilot is frequently criticized for taking control of a car while allowing a driver's attention to wander too far away from what Autopilot is doing. It's what allowed a drunk driver who appeared as if he were asleep at the wheel to lead cops on Autopilot for seven miles, and worse before. Autopilot still isn't a fully autonomous system even though it acts as if it is one at times, and the fact that it only requires a hand on the steering wheel to stay in operation means that drivers tend to over-rely on the system, as it doesn't require their immediate attention. If a driver relies too much on a semi-autonomous system like Tesla's Autopilot, that driver can't react soon enough when the system suddenly needs their input.

That's why it's all the more important for drivers to know how these additional functions will work. We've already seen Autopilot struggle in construction zones where older lane markings peeking through can confuse the system. Devices like stop signs and roundabouts can get snowed over, and traffic lights can malfunction. Furthermore, there's a lot more pedestrian traffic to contend with on regular city streets, and that's something we can't afford to let a car get wrong.

So, we'll have to wait and see what Tesla comes up with for this new addition to Navigation on Autopilot. A system that's able to navigate city streets with minimal driver input is an important step towards the fully autonomous cars I really want: as in, the ones that will let me take a nap while they putter through traffic. Until then, I hope Tesla finds a way to keep the driver's attention a bit better, as they'll be needed more than ever if Autopilot becomes easier to use in towns.

Volkswagen Working on ‘I.D. Lounge’ Fancy EV Crossover for 2019 Reveal: Report

Volkswagen is reportedly readying an upscale electric crossover named the "I.D. Lounge" for debut in April of 2019 at the Shanghai Auto Show.

The I.D. Lounge will be a seven-seat crossover with dimensions comparable to the current Touareg, according to Autocar, making the vehicle a potential competitor with the likes of the Tesla Model X. Volkswagen is said to be going more for range and comfort than performance with the I.D. Lounge, and will reportedly give the model a range-topping interior and a battery as bulky as 111 kW, besting the Tesla's maximum capacity of 100 kWh.

VW reportedly hopes said battery will give the I.D. Lounge up to 373 miles (600 kilometers) of range, though the testing protocol on which this range would be achieved was not specified—likely Worldwide Harmonized Light Vehicle Test (WLTP). None of VW's previous concept vehicles have had such a grandiose range estimate, even from the 111-kwh battery, possibly portending improvements to VW's electric powertrain technologies. The I.D. Lounge's powertrain itself is said to be twin-motor all-wheel-drive, presumably with AC induction motors identical to those of its MEB platform-mate the I.D. Buzz Cargo.

Arrival in dealerships is reportedly slated for 2021 alongside the smaller I.D. Crozz, which VW was planning to build in the United States as of July. By that time, customers seeking high-end crossovers with electric propulsion will be spoilt for choice. BMW's iX3 and Mercedes-Benz's EQC are expected to arrive in 2020, while order banks for the Jaguar I-Pace and Audi e-tron are already open.

The Drive contacted Volkswagen for comment on its plans regarding a potential upscale electric crossover, though a spokesperson declined to issue a statement.

Lance Armstrong Invested $100,000 on Uber in 2009, Netted $20M Years Later

An early investment in Uber may have saved Lance Armstrong from financial ruin. The cyclist, who admitted in 2013 that he cheated to win his Tour de France titles, invested in a venture capital fund that bought into Uber. In a CNBC interview, Armstrong said the investment was "too good to be true" and that it "saved our family."

Bloomberg subsequently did some calculations and estimated that Armstrong's initial $100,000 investment in Uber may have netted him $20 million.

In 2009, Armstrong invested the $100,000 in Lowercase Capital, a venture capital firm started by Chris Sacca, according to CNBC. The firm decided to bet on Uber, which was just preparing to launch at the time and was valued at $3.7 million. Armstrong told CNBC that he didn't even know Uber was one of the companies Lowercase was investing in.

Uber subsequently took off, establishing app-based ride-hailing as a mainstream alternative to taxis, delivery services, and public transit, ultimately spawning rivals like Lyft. The company claims to have completed over 10 billion trips globally, and is said to be valued by some investment bankers at $120 billion.

Lowercase has returned between 250 times and 300 times on investments, according to Bloomberg, which cites anonymous sources familiar with the fund's performance. That means Armstrong's investment could be worth as much as $30 million, the new service noted. But after deducting fees, Bloomberg estimates that Armstrong has probably made closer to $20 million.

Uber will be looking for more results like this as it heads toward an initial public offering (IPO) in 2019. The company has already filed confidential paperwork, according to several reports. Rival Lyft will launch its own IPO in 2019, giving the two rivals yet another arena to compete in.

Toyota Supra Super GT Racing Concept Teased Ahead of Tokyo Auto Salon Debut

Toyota revealed Monday the silhouette of its upcoming race-oriented Supra concept, which is supposedly scheduled for a full debut in January of 2019 at the Tokyo Auto Salon. The street-going Supra is scheduled to be unveiled at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit in January as well.

The automaker states that motorsport plays a role in its continuous effort to build better cars, citing the torture test that is racing as an ideal platform for technological advancement. This theme will underpin its display at the Tokyo Auto Salon 2019, where Toyota will showcase its race cars of the past, present, and future.

A historic Super GT Supra will represent Toyota's history, the Yaris WRC and TS050 Hybrid the present, while both a Lexus LC Nürburgring-spec and the focal point of the exhibit—the Super GT Supra concept—represent tomorrow. Toyota offered a rendering of its arena at the Salon, though its Supra and LC highlights remain masked for the time being.

What Toyota uncovers at the Salon could foretell the automaker's plans for its high-performance, track-ready Supra GRMN, which program lead Tetsuya Tada aspires to build with the Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport has a benchmark. Confirmation has not yet come that Toyota will sell such a model, but given the platform's evident potency (its BMW Z4 platform-mate trounced an M2 around the Nürburgring with less power), it'd be a shame if no such car was sold.

The 2019 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) may be held in the dead of Michigan's bitter winter, but Toyota will warm things up with its plans to reveal the production-ready Supra at the NAIAS. Along with it will come the 2020 Lexus RC-F Track Edition, which we already know will make admirable use of unpainted carbon fiber. Ready your phone cameras, because it'll be one hell of a show.