How do we even begin talking about something as insanely awesome as this? There is no witty turn-of-phrase, no well-crafted metaphor, indeed no single word or thought that can properly pay homage to what takes place in the video above. This isn’t just intense sideways action – the unbroken drift with perfect transitions lasts for nearly two minutes, which would be worthy of recognition on its own. The vehicle in question also happens to be one of the most iconic Hollywood cars ever, and oh yeah, the car is driving itself the whole freaking time. Mind blown? No, universe blown.
Say hello to this 1981 DeLorean appropriately named Marty. That’s not just a riff on Back to the Future’s main character Marty McFly – it’s an acronym for Multiple Actuator Research Test bed for Yaw control. It’s a stretch but we so don’t care, and we suspect recent Stanford graduate Jon Goh doesn’t care either. He just picked up his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering, and this self-drifting DeLorean could well be among his greatest achievements. Goh and colleagues from Stanford’s Dynamic Design Lab created this cool DeLorean four years ago to spin autonomous donuts. As you can see, things have progressed a bit further since then.
The car is obviously heavily modified. For starters, it’s a fully electric vehicle with a pair of motors sending prolific torque to the rear wheels. It has a custom suspension setup, a roll cage, and computing power galore. Various autonomous drifting exercises over the years led to this incredible run, where the DeLorean completed the entire course at speeds up to 31 mph and pulled off aggressive drift transitions of up to 40 degrees.
Gallery: Stanford Automated Drift DeLorean
GPS coordinates told the DeLorean where it was, and as the video shows, the car misses cones, boxes, and hay bales sometimes by mere inches. In fact, this was the car’s very first run on the course, set up at California’s Thunderhill Raceway. And it didn’t hit a single thing.
As amazing as all this looks, the creation of Marty and this program wasn’t just to create a new automated drift king. By developing and fine-tuning this software to corral a vehicle past the boundaries of control, Goh and the Stanford team are actually taking a giant leap in the development of advanced autonomous systems that can do more than just keep a car going straight on a dry highway. The data captured from this program will help develop systems that can function in all weather conditions where traction is limited, not to mention better response times to situations requiring emergency maneuvers.
Of course, sending a DeLorean on a two-minute automated drift exhibition without a single mistake looks pretty darned cool, too. If you're science fans like we are, the source link below has all kinds of great information on this very impressive achievement.