Published 17 July, 2019; last updated 23 April, 2020
Land speed records did not see any greater-than-10-year discontinuities relative to linear progress across all records. Considered as several distinct linear trends it saw discontinuities of 12, 13, 25, and 13 years, the first two corresponding to early (but not first) jet-propelled vehicles.
The first jet-propelled vehicle just predated a marked change in the rate of progress of land speed records, from a recent 1.8 mph / year to 164 mph / year.
This case study is part of AI Impacts’ discontinuous progress investigation.
According to Wikipedia, the land speed record is “the highest speed achieved by a person using a vehicle on land.”1 Wheel-driven cars, which supply power to their axles, held the records for land speed record through 1963, when the first turbojet powered vehicles arrived on the scene. No wheel-driven car has held the record since 1964.2
If we treat the data as a linear trend across all time,5 then the land speed record did not contain any greater than 10-year discontinuities.
However we divide the data into several linear trends.6 Extrapolating based on these trends, there were four discontinuities of sizes 12, 13, 25, and 13 years, produced by different turbojet-powered vehicles.7In addition to the size of these discontinuities in years, we have tabulated a number of other potentially relevant metrics here.8
There are several marked changes in the rate of progress in this history. The first two discontinuities are near the start of a sharp change, that seemed to come from the introduction of jet-propulsion (though note that the first jet-propelled vehicle in the trend is neither discontinuous with the previous trend, nor seemingly within the period of faster growth).
If we look at the rates of progress in the stretches directly before the second jet propelled vehicle in 1964, and the stretch directly after that through 1965, the rate of progress increases from 1.8 mph / year to 164 mph / year.9