Stanford’s Self-Driving Car ‘Shelley’ Races Around at 120 MPH

Stanford developed "Shelley" to see how the self-driving car adjusts its throttle and braking systems. It hopes to use the data to improve collision avoidance software.


Stanford University engineers have developed a self-driving car that can hit speeds up to 120 miles per hour.

Named “Shelley,” the custom Audi TTS was recently tested at the three-mile Thunderhill Raceway in California. Shelley hit average speeds of between 50-70MPH, but on the quicker parts of the track the self-driving car reached speed between 110-120 MPH.

Thankfully, there were no transit buses to collide with on the racetrack.

“A race car driver can use all of a car’s functionality to drive fast,” said Chris Gerdes, a professor of mechanical engineering who led the development of Shelley. “We want to access that same functionality to make driving safer.”

Gerdes said Shelley was developed to see how the car adjusts its throttle, braking systems and record data from these movements to be to improve collision avoidance software.

Stanford said Shelley is almost as fast around the track as an experienced racer. But this isn’t the first time we’ve seen a self-driving racecar. You might remember the epic battle that took place in 2015 between an Audi RS 7 autonomous car and Fifth Gear’s Jonny Smith. The challenge was to see who could complete one lap around the 2.5-mile Ascari racetrack in Spain faster.

The RS 7 was pre-programmed with details of the track, which gave it a huge advantage over Smith, who only had a test drive in the autonomous car and two laps of his own driving to learn the course. The results might surprise you. Watch the race below.




About the Author

Steve Crowe · Steve Crowe is managing editor of Robotics Trends. Steve has been writing about technology since 2008. He lives in Belchertown, MA with his wife and daughter.
Contact Steve Crowe: scrowe@ehpub.com  ·  View More by Steve Crowe.




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