If you’re gonna build an autonomous drifting car, you might as well do it in style

Shane McGlaun - Dec 23, 2019, 8:29pm CST
If you’re gonna build an autonomous drifting car, you might as well do it in style

Drifting is a sport that lots of people are into. It requires a high degree of car control to keep the vehicle sliding sideways while maintaining control. Anyone who has tried drifting knows it’s not as easy as it looks. Researchers at Dynamic Design Lab created an autonomous car that uses tech to drift itself around a controlled course.

The team built the autonomous drift car out of a classic DeLorean dubbed MARTY. To pilot the course, the researchers programmed in GPS coordinates and algorithms on the laptop of one of the scientists to handle the actual driving. MARTY was able to navigate the entire course outlined with orange cones without hitting a single one, on its first attempt.

The scientists say that the data gathered in their test could help to transform the autonomous driving systems used in cars today. The tech could one day allow autonomous cars to dodge pedestrians that step out into the road. The team is trying to develop cars that can handle emergency maneuvers or slippery surfaces like ice and snow.

The goal is to develop vehicles that use all of the friction between the tire and the road to get out of trouble if needed. One researcher says that the team wants the car to be able to avoid any accident that’s avoidable within the laws of physics.

Drifting was chosen because the extremes of traction and performance allow the researchers to gather data they wouldn’t be able to gather any other way. MARTY is an electric vehicle that has a pair of electric motors to provide 7,000 Nm of torque to each wheel. There are a pair of GPS antennas inside that track the car to within an inch. The steering is computer controlled. Brakes are electrically controlled, and the suspension is customized to survive drifts and fast turns.

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