How Ugly Zones Put Self-Driving Cars To The Most Ruthless Tests

Lance Eliot
10 min readOct 11, 2019

Dr. Lance Eliot, AI Insider

[Ed. Note: For reader’s interested in Dr. Eliot’s ongoing business analyses about the advent of self-driving cars, see his online Forbes column:]

Is he a man or a machine?

That was asked about Francesco Molinari when he won the 2018 Open Golf Championship and earned himself nearly $2 million in prize money.

It was his first major golf victory and it was the first time that the now 147th annual golf tournament was won by an Italian (there was a lot of celebrating in Italy!).

How did he achieve the win?

You could say that it was years upon years of other golf competitions and smaller wins that led to this big win.

Would you be willing to say it was due to practice?

Francesco is known for being a slave to practicing. He had opted to radically change his practice routines, entering into what some call the ugly zone.

Introducing To The Ugly Zone

When practicing any kind of skill, you are to do so with a maximum amount of pressure, perhaps even more so than what you’ll experience during live competition play.

The goal is to make practices as rough and tough as a real match. Maybe even more so.

Francesco shifted his practices two years prior to his incredible win into becoming near torture tests.

His new coach embodied the ugly zone philosophy and emphasized that the frustration level had to be equal to a real game or possibly higher than a real game.

The more annoyed that Francesco became with his coach, the more the coach knew he was doing something right in terms of making practices hard. Every practice golf shot was considered vital. No more of the traditional hitting golf balls with your clubs for mindless hours on end. Instead, all sorts of complicated shots and series of shots were devised for practices.

Some psychologists suggest that adding challenges to practices tends to boost the long-term impacts of the practices.

Lance Eliot

Dr. Lance B. Eliot is a renowned global expert on AI, successful startup founder, global CIO/CTO, , was a top exec at a major Venture Capital (VC) firm.