Watch: MARTY the Self-Driving DeLorean Does Perfect Donuts

Built by Stanford, MARTY's goal is to be able to handle all kinds of extreme situations, even if that means drifting to avoid an obstacle.

If you haven’t noticed, today is “Back to the Future” day - October 21, 2015 was the day in the future Marty McFly visited.

What better way to celebrate “Back to the Future” than a nod to the iconic trilogy’s increasing presence in robotics. We recently told you about how “Back to the Future” influenced the voice of Jibo and now the movie is making an imprint in the world of self-driving cars.

Meet MARTY (Multiple Actuator Research Test bed for Yaw control), a self-driving DeLorean built by students at Stanford. All it can do at this point is complete continuous donuts, but the goal is to have MARTY drifting around a track competing against a professional driver.

“In our work developing autonomous driving algorithms, we’ve found that sometimes you need to sacrifice stability to turn sharply and avoid accidents,” says Stanford’s professor of mechanical engineering, Chris Gerdes. “The very best rally car drivers do this all this time, sacrificing stability so they can use all of the car’s capabilities to avoid obstacles and negotiate tight turns at speed.”

“Current control systems designed to assist a human driver, however, don’t allow this sort of maneuvering,” he continues. “We think that it is important to open up this design space to develop fully automated cars that are as safe as possible.”

MARTY uses GPS mapping, not radar or cameras like Google. Renovo Motors, a startup that builds electric vehicle software, built the components inside MARTY, which can generate up to 500 horsepower, though Stanford says it will stick around the 200 range.

“A drift competition is the perfect blend of our two most important research questions – how to control the car precisely and how to design automated vehicles that interact with humans,” says Gerdes.

“While we aren’t picturing a future where every car produces clouds of white tire smoke during the daily commute, we do want automated vehicles that can decipher the subtle cues drivers give when driving and incorporate this feedback when planning motion.  Drifting is a way to study these larger questions, with style.”

[Source:] Top Gear

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.
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