Yes, there are car manufacturers which have begun testing their autonomous prototypes in real-world conditions but boffins at Stanford University have given us a version of autonomous driving that is way cooler than what we've seen yet. Think a car capable of maneuvering through a car park on its own is impressive? You'll think again when you watch this video of an electric DeLorean doing flawless drifts on a racecourse with absolutely no inputs from the two people present inside.
Stanford University's DeLorean project includes a DeLorean plonked with a pair of electric motors and some seriously impressive software that handles the throttle, braking, and steering. The team quite rightly calls the car Marty (named after Michael J. Fox’s character Marty McFly of Back to the Future film series) which completed the one-km obstacle course seamlessly without knocking down a single cone.
Jonathan Goh, a mechanical engineering doctorate graduate from Stanford, led the team responsible for making a DeLorean go sideways on its own. Marty is based on a 1981 DeLorean that was converted into an all-electric, fully-autonomous drifter. It gets custom suspension and larger brakes, along with an array of onboard computers and GPS antennae for location tracking.
Self-driving or autonomous cars are being developed to be able to tackle everyday road conditions and situations, but project lead Chris Gerdes says that Marty is the outcome of the team's goal to develop autonomous cars that can tackle emergency maneuvers or roads covered with snow.
“We’d like to develop automated vehicles that can use all of the friction between the tire and the road to get the car out of harm’s way. We want the car to be able to avoid any accident that’s avoidable within the laws of physics,” said Gerdes.
Goh says that drifting creates extreme examples of driving physics that may not be obtained in other scenarios. “If we can conquer how to safely control the car in the most stable and the most unstable scenarios, it becomes easier to connect all the dots in between.”