Autonomous vehicles are inevitable. You may all think that’s boring because commanding your own mechanical steed is how you feel alive and all that but there’s really nothing much you can do about it. We’re not exactly waxing lyricals about it as well but what about autonomous drifting… in an electric DeLorean? No, it doesn’t fly but why fly when you can slide?
Stanford University DeLorean project is multiple levels of cool. Firstly, there’s the obvious DeLorean. Anything with that car is a winner. Then they binned the useless petrol engine and dropped in a pair of electric motors. Lastly, all the computing hardware with superior software was fitted.
The result is precision drifting with accuracy that leaves some of Formula Drift’s finest hotshoes in awe. We’re pretty sure they could pull off that sort of pinpoint perfection occasionally but the thing with computers is it’ll replicate that accuracy all day long. Two GPS antennae track its location within an inch on the course and calculates a drift route in seconds when given a layout.
Naturally, they dubbed the car Marty (Multiple Actuator Research Testbed for Yaw control). The test track is about a kilometer long and Marty will light up the rear tyres around it sans any human intervention and come with inches of the obstacles flawlessly.
It’s truly mesmerising to watch as Marty transitions like a seasoned pro; applying the throttle and steering to impress even the pros.
“The results so far are rather outstanding. The stability control systems of modern cars limit the driver's control to a very narrow range of the car’s potential. With Marty we have been able to more broadly define the range of conditions in which we can safely operate, and we have the ability to stabilise the car in these unstable conditions,” explained lead project engineer Chris Gerdes.
To go along with the upgraded powertrain, Marty received custom suspension, larger brakes and a roll-cage for safety.
Stanford laid out the computing process behind the software development to make Marty work:
By studying the habits of professional drivers and testing those same control maneuvers in Marty, the Stanford team has enabled the car to use a greater range of its physical limits to maintain stability through a broader range of conditions. The mathematics involved—which they have made open access—could allow autonomous systems to maneuver in emergencies with the agility of a professional drift racer.
If you need that translated into English, it means in the future your autonomous systems in vehicles could avoid collisions and pedestrians by drifting if the need arises. Yes, your self-driving car could drift to avoid accidents.
What a time to be alive.