The Numismatic Bibliomania Society


The E-Sylum: Volume 25, Number 46, November 13, 2022, Article 18


Today the Washington Post published a profile of Dan O'Dowd, the billionaire owner of the blockbuster Tyrant coin collection recently exhibited at multiple conventions. It focuses on his campaign scrutinizing Tesla's "Self-Driving" technology, calling for regulation and testing. Is he today's Ralph Nader? -Editor

Dan O'Dowd When Dan O'Dowd had his midlife crisis, he bought two near-identical Tesla Roadsters, the first model the electric carmaker ever produced. This year, the 66 year-old tech entrepreneur added another to his collection: a Model 3 equipped with Full Self-Driving Beta — a software program that allows the car to drive on its own on highways and busy city streets.

The third Tesla is crucial for an unusual hobby: O'Dowd is waging a multimillion-dollar campaign to get Tesla's Full Self-Driving software off the roads — before Tesla CEO Elon Musk follows through with plans to make the tech available worldwide by the end of the year.

O'Dowd, who made his fortune selling software to military customers, has been using the Model 3 to test and film the self-driving software. He's documented what appear to be examples of the car swerving across the centerline toward oncoming traffic, failing to slow down in a school zone and missing stop signs. This summer, he triggered an uproar by releasing a video showing his Tesla — allegedly in Full Self-Driving mode — mowing down child-size mannequins.

O'Dowd's quest has prompted personal attacks and criticism from Musk's legions of supporters. Tesla sent O'Dowd a cease-and-desist letter in response to his child mannequin test. And this week, O'Dowd says a new ad he tried to run on Twitter was rejected.

As a teenager in suburban Michigan, O'Dowd found a passion for coding, learning how to program on an IBM computer.

The year after graduating from the California Institute of Technology, he designed his first debugger, a computer program that can run through another set of code and find its flaws. The process of methodically fixing errors fascinated him, and set off a lifelong mission against what he sees as an epidemic of terrible, bug-ridden software infiltrating the world.

In 1982 he founded Green Hills Software in Pasadena, Calif., to make operating systems for the tiny computers that were beginning to pop up inside industrial machines, planes, ships and trains. His super-secure approach won over the U.S. military, and his first big sale was to the maker of the B1-B supersonic bomber.

O'Dowd owns most of Green Hills, which was worth just shy of a billion dollars in 2019 when he sold a $150 million chunk of it. Beyond several houses in tony Santa Barbara, he doesn't want to spend his money on the yachts and private islands other wealthy tech founders seem to delight in.

Dan O'Dowd with Tyrannosaurus rex skull In the past, O'Dowd bought historical artifacts — he owns the world's most expensive coin collection, and has both a Nazi-era Enigma encoding machine and a nearly intact fossilized Tyrannosaurus rex skull displayed in his offices.

As he got older, O'Dowd said he began looking for a more lasting project to spend his money on. About a year ago, a colleague told him about Tesla Full Self-Driving videos online. O'Dowd spent hours watching them, and said he was shocked by what he saw.

Why would you put a car on the road that does something that would be illegal, that would cost you your license? he said. He decided to make Tesla's software the centerpiece of a bigger campaign he has named the Dawn Project to expose what he sees as incomplete and unsafe software being used in cars and power plants and in cybersecurity.

O'Dowd's videos are plentiful online. While I don't have a Tesla, my car does have some now-common features such as lane-keeping assistance and adaptive cruise control. Together they do help when driving in stop-and-go traffic as a well as on the open road. I've gotten used to using them on long drives. So I'm no Luddite when it comes to new technology. But no, I'm not putting my feet up to read a book while the car drives itself, thank you. And having once been rear-ended by a distracted Jeep Cherokee driver, I keep an eye on the rear-view mirror for approching vehicles, Teslas included.

O'Dowd's already waged a Senate campaign and shows no signs of slowing his crusade. So watch for more news about him. So far (as the article notes), regulators have given the whole autonomous vehicle industry room to experiment, and Dan's warnings have fallen on deaf ears. Time will tell, so stay tuned - and keep an eye on the rear-view mirror. -Editor

To read the complete article, see:
The tech CEO spending millions to stop Elon Musk (

To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see:

Kenny E-Sylum ad01 eBay store

Wayne Homren, Editor

NBS ( Web

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