Self-Driving

Stanford's Dynamic Design Lab engineers are teaching a driverless DeLorean to drift

MARTY, the autonomous drifting DeLorean.

Photo courtesy of Stanford, by Jonathan Goh

The DeLorean may be one of the most coveted cars on the planet. Despite its short time on dealership lots, the car became an instant class, thanks in no small part to the role it played in the "Back to the Future" movies. The future of the DeLorean is coming in fast and hot thanks to a team of engineers at Stanford's Dynamic Design Lab.

At Thunderhill Raceway in California, among the tire smoke, dirt, sand, and pavement, is a 1981 DeLorean nicknamed MARTY – which stands for Multiple Actuator Research Test bed for Yaw control – that has been converted into an all-electric self-driving drift car. The car is the work of recent mechanical engineering PhD graduate from Stanford Jon Goh and his colleagues at the Dynamic Design Lab.

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MARTY's insides are nothing like they were in 1981 or in the "Back to the Future" movies. The car's powertrain has been replaced by electric motors and batteries. The car's soft suspension was enhanced with further stiffness to improve the car's ability to drift. Mechanical steering, braking, and throttle controls have all been replaced by electric systems. The car also has a new roll cage.

Two GPC antennae sit on MARTY's roof and are able to track the car's location within a single inch. Computers are stashed in the rear seats.

Four years ago, the DeLorean did its first drift moves with inhuman precision.

"We're trying to develop automated vehicles that can handle emergency maneuvers or slippery surfaces like ice or snow," said Chris Gerdes, mechanical engineer. "We'd like to develop automated vehicles that can use all of the friction between the tire and the road to get the car out of harm's way. We want the car to be able to avoid any accident that's avoidable within the laws of physics."

When a driverless car operates traditionally, the use of a steering wheel and pedals is relegated to simplistic movements to keep a car moving steadily or stopping with ease. With drifting, it's a completely different story.

"Suddenly the car is pointed in a very different direction than where it's going. Your steering wheel controls the speed, the throttle affects the rotation, and the brakes can impact how quickly you change directions," Goh said. "You have to understand how to use these familiar inputs in a very different way to control the car, and most drivers just aren't very good at handling the car when it becomes this unstable."

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The Stanford team studied the habits of professional drivers and worked to duplicate those maneuvers when developing the software for MARTY.

"Through drifting, we're able to get to extreme examples of driving physics that we wouldn't otherwise," Goh said. "If we can conquer how to safely control the car in the most stable and the most unstable scenarios, it becomes easier to connect all the dots in between."

To get in deep on how MARTY was able to pull off the drift, check out the first MARTY-related journal paper.

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Nuts & Bolts

 
 

A new short film by Koenigsegg features the Regera super car.

Photo courtesy of Koenigsegg

It's not coming to a theater near you, but you can watch it on YouTube. Koenigsegg has released its first featurette, starring nine none other than the Regera super car.

The Regera is a hybrid that combines the power of a twin-turbo 5.0-liter V8 engine with three electric motors. It achieves 1500 horsepower. The car doesn't have a traditional gearbox, instead relying on hydraulic coupling. Because of this, at speeds under 30 mph, the Regera leans on its electric motors for power. Above 30 mph, the car car utilizes its V8, taking off in a mad dash when the accelerator is push to the ground.

It can get from zero to 60 mph in 2.8 seconds. From a standstill to 249 mph takes less than 20 seconds. Those numbers make the car the fastest accelerating car in the world. Maximum speed is electronically restricted to 255 mph.

"Time to Reign: A Koenigsegg Mini Blockbuster" was scripted and produced almost entirely in-house. It's a heist story filmed in 4K with a covert operation, evil accomplices, and a delightfully stereotypical absentminded guard.

Its cast is made up of members of the Koenigsegg team. The film features company founder Christian von Koenigsegg and his Regera in a starring role alongside designer Marcelle Roeli, marketing and event coordinator Christina Nordin, and customer and loyalty coordinator Kirsi Kärkkäinen. Other Koenigsegg personnel serve in supporting roles, including Gustav Nisson, a company assistant whose dance moves play a prominent role in the story line.

Mrs. Koenigsegg herself, Halldora von Koenigsegg, who serves as the company's COO, makes an appearance at the end.

The quick film, which runs nearly 12 minutes including the credits, is available to watch below.

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Lucid is taking a page out of the no-dealership playbook.

Photo courtesy of Lucid Motors

Lucid Motors will be following the Tesla model of selling vehicles, setting up sales and service locations called Lucid Studios. There will be 20 boutiques open by the end of 2021 across North America, according to a statement put out by the company this week.

The studios will each feature a "California-inspired design aesthetic" and offers customers the flexibility of visiting the storefront in person or shopping online. They are small in size, but in high-traffic areas.

Lucid Motors boutiques Some showrooms may have the new Lucid Air staged inside.Photo courtesy of Lucid Motors

The company has immediate plans to open ten studios:

  • Silicon Valley Studio: Located at Lucid's Global Headquarters in Newark, CA
  • Los Angeles Studios: Located at 9022 Wilshire Blvd in Beverly Hills, CA, and at Westfield Century City in Century City, CA
  • Los Angeles Service Center: Located at 9022 Wilshire Blvd in Beverly Hills, CA
  • San Jose Studio: Located at Westfield Valley Fair in San Jose, CA
  • Miami Studio: Located at Brickell City Centre in Miami, FL
  • West Palm Beach Studio: Located at Rosemary Square in West Palm Beach, FL
  • New York City Studio: Located in the Meatpacking District, NY
  • DC Metro Studio: Located at Tysons Corner Center in Tysons, VA
Lucid will soon unveil a new consumer-facing website and launch their new electric vehicle, the Lucid Air. The company promises that the new website will feature "the world's most advanced configurator" that allows customers to customize their vehicle.
Within the site, the world's most advanced configurator will enable prospective owners to customize their own car and view it from any angle in a variety of environments. The Lucid app will let customers communicate with the company on any topic, including servicing. And over-the-air updates will keep every Lucid Air's in-car technology up to date.

Lucid Motors boutiques As shown, the Lucid Motors boutique will feature a vehicle simulator.Photo courtesy of Lucid Motors

The company is promising a nationwide network of service centers, mobile service providers, and certified collision repair centers that will be part of Lucid's "centralized customer care group". These service providers will be able to address customer needs that cannnot be remotely diagnosed and repaired.

"The national network of Lucid Studios and Service Center locations we are rolling out over the coming months will ensure an industry-leading experience to anyone who reserves a Lucid Air," said Zak Edson, Director of Retail Operations for Lucid. "From purchase to delivery to ownership, the experience we offer is designed to be amongst the best in the world."

The production version of the Lucid Air will debut in an online reveal on September 9, 2020.

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