Researchers at Stanford University figured October 21, 2015 – the “future” date characters Doc and Marty visited in the second Back to the Future film – would be a great day to reveal their new self-driving DeLorean project, MARTY.
Sorry, did I say “self-driving”? I meant “self-drifting.” MARTY was designed specifically to do donuts. The name stands for “Multiple Actuator Research Test bed for Yaw control.”
“We think automated vehicles should be able to execute any maneuver within the physical limits of the vehicle to get out of harm’s way,” is how Chris Gerdes, director of Stanford’s Revs Center, explained the purpose of the project to Wired.
The research team was inspired by rally racers, who take their cars to the very edge of control, often sliding them sideways to get them to go exactly where they want. The engineers at the Revs Center wanted to see if they could similarly teach a computer to swap some stability for better speed and control.
The project started in May 2013 with a daily-driver DeLorean they picked up for $22,000, a car selected not only for its futuristic looks, but because the brand being defunct meant PR reps wouldn’t be jumping all over the university’s computerized stunt driving.
Before they taught it how to do “fairly perfect” drifts in circles – that is, donuts – they had to beef up its chassis, steering and suspension. The DeLorean is close to 40 years old, after all.
They also dropped in two Renovo electric motors, one for each of the rear tires, together good for 4,100 lb-ft of torque, way more than the stock car ever dreamed of. Bridgestone supplied the rubber they’d be burning through.
Stanford’s not the first group to show off self-racing performance vehicles. In 2014, BMW unveiled a prototype 2-Series that could autonomously drift around corners, and Audi got an RS7 to race itself around Germany’s Hockenheimring track.
(Stanford via Wired)