March 29, 2018 10:34 pm

Roy Green: What the algorithms really know about me

Shelby Mustang GT350R

(Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
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I’ve had a lifelong love affair with cars and owned more than 30.

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The list includes a ’67 Mustang GT390 — an identical sibling to Steve McQueen’s ‘Stang featured in Bullitt, showing off still the greatest car chase in movie history. There have been three Corvettes, a handful of Mercedes, including a silver 500SL with AMG trim. A ’73 Chev Malibu sleeper with a 454 cu in engine, Hurst slapstick shifter and big ‘ol tires that would be at home on the backroads of Georgia or Alabama.

Recently, I’ve been on a nostalgia trip and searching some of my former beauties online. It’s been casual. Twenty minutes here, 45 minutes there. Plastic seats and bias ply tires are romantic only to a point.

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Now, suddenly, as I power up the laptop and load a news story from a search engine, car ads push their way to screen prominence. No ’67 GT390 directly, but an ’07 Shelby GT500 is beckoning: 20,000 km and only $45,000.  Alongside, just in case I have the yen (or dollars), is a 2019, 755hp Corvette ZR1, beginning at $118,900 pre-tax. But hey, the ad coos, it’s the fastest Corvette in history and will top 210 mph (330 km/h). That means the ZR will run alongside Sebastian Vettel’s Formula 1 Ferrari and give away nothing in a straight line.

By now, I have no idea what the news story was, nor why on God’s green pasture I may have had any interest. The program at the other end of my casual searches for personal history on wheels has recognized my true passion and is taking cyber advantage.

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When I click on the visual of the ’07, 4oth anniversary Shelby ‘Stang or the ’19 ZR1, a drop down description/menu continues to push the drop dead gorgeous machines at me. Scroll a little further, and there’s the payment calculator. My downpayment/trade-in value of my current wheels makes the ‘Stang quite doable, and since I live alone now, the ZR seems to scream, “It’s nobody’s business but yours. Buy me.”

I’m not learning quickly enough. Now that I’ve posted I live alone (with the Rowdies, my two canine buddies), I’ll surely be seeing stuff for people who live as I do. Maybe $500 sweaters and $600 shoes (per shoe Imelda?).  A $500 per night doggie spa to treat the Rowdies while I’m on my road trip?

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The hook sinks in a little deeper. Where would I drive to in my ’19 ZR1? I’ve forgotten the Shelby (for now). Did I mention that since my cross-continent road trip last summer, ads for hotels in each province and state I visited pop onto my screen with annoying regularity. It works though. Now I’m scrolling Idaho, Montana, Utah and Nevada; not to mention B.C., Alberta and points east. I ask myself, What would that 7,000 mile trip be like in a ’19 ZR1?

Ever obligingly, the websites I used to book rooms while on the road appear. Great overnighters everwhere. Are they reading my mind or has an algorithm become Eve waving a shiny apple?

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Just for the heck of it, let’s crunch numbers. My trade in is worth about $30,000 — more if I sell it privately. That brings the ’19 ZR1 down to $90,000, or a monthly payment of about $2,000 for 60 months will stick that baby into my garage. The Shelby? Yup, still on the screen. Does the algorithm know $2,000 per month isn’t going to fly — and was selling the Shelby the intent all along? Five hundred hp with a cobra on the gas cap is cool and the design is timeless.

Oh boy, this data collecting stuff really works. Wait a minute. I also search-engined Kathleen Wynne.

Roy Green is the host of the Roy Green Show on the Global News Radio network.

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