Thank the Stanford Dynamic Design Lab for this incredible accomplishment.
Will autonomous cars ever be as competent as human drivers? That is the most pressing question about self-driving technology. Because of Jonathan Goh and Chris Gerdes, from Stanford’s Dynamic Design Lab, we’ll have an entirely opposite question to make: will humans ever be as competent as this autonomous electric car? It is way more than that, to be honest. It’s a 1981 DMC DeLorean with two electric motors on the rear axle that is called the Multiple Actuator Research Testbed for Yaw control. Marty, for short.
Gallery: What About An Autonomous Electric DMC DeLorean? Meet Marty!
This car is fantastic for much more than the clever name, a tribute to Michael J. Fox’s character in the “Back To The Future” trilogy. It also goes sideways as if it was not a huge challenge. If some cars offer a drift mode, such as the Ford Focus RS, there will be a time in which this mode will include the vehicle doing the whole process for the driver.
Although it may look like this, the goal of the research is not making smoke with the tires. It is to make the autonomous car able to handle difficult situations in the best way possible. Not only slippery surfaces, as Gerdes mentions in the video below, but also avoiding obstacles and other difficult situations.
Do you want an example of such a problematic event? What about having another car coming in the wrong way right in front of you? We have an old video of a TV news piece in Brazil that shows exactly how Marty could save your life:
With Marty’s skills, it could also avoid an almost certain accident in the same fashion.
Do not think that making it was easy. Apart from the beautiful body, this DeLorean has very little of what John DeLorean conceived. It has two electric motors in the rear axle that give the car 7,000 Nm (5,163 lb-ft) to play with. Renovo developed both the motors and the battery pack.
The suspension was also not adequate for the goals of the project, so it gave room to a stiffer one. Marty also has two GPS antennae, a roll cage, and electromechanical components to better control its brakes and steering.
In its first demonstration, Marty did not drop a single cone to the floor. We can say it did better than many professional drivers would in a circuit that makes us remember the Hydra symbol.
Will we see more Marty stunts in the future? Will it be present in autonomous cars of the future to make our roads safer and more predictable, even in unpredictable conditions? That is where we wish Goh’s and Gerdes’ project leads us in the future. Stylishly, if possible, but we will be ok just with the skills. They are amazing.