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 The car's powertrain has been replaced by electric motors and batteries.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 Mechanical steering, braking, and throttle controls have all been replaced by electric systems.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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Dream job alert

You could become Dodge's Chief Donut Maker

You can apply to become a Dodge ambassador with some great perks.

Dodge

One lucky person is about to win the car enthusiast's job of a lifetime, though only for a year. Beginning today, Dodge is accepting applications for its new and temporary Chief Donut Maker

If the title alone isn't enough to make the job sound appealing, the benefits are seemingly endless. The lucky new Dodge "employee" will pick up a $150,000 salary, along with the opportunity to drive an SRT Hellcat company car for the year. Additionally, the winner will participate in all manner of racing and car-related events, take courses at Radford Racing School, and get a load of Dodge-branded clothing.

Dodge is Hiring a Chief Donut Maker www.youtube.com

If you're reading this and thinking it sounds like a blast - you're right. There's a catch, however, which comes in the form of an intense consideration process that culminates in a racing event with a pro driver on a closed course. A panel of judges will evaluate the video entries, and wrestler Bill Goldberg will oversee the race between the top ten finalists. Dodge says the series of eliminations will air like a reality TV show, with the winner being revealed in the final episode.

Today is the opening day of the application period. You have until February 28 to submit your short video, which can be a maximum of two minutes. Get busy making your video and head here to submit it before the deadline.

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Dodge offers upgrades that push power to 885 ponies in some models.

Dodge

The world may be going electric, but Dodge is still offering plenty of support to owners of its famed Hellcat muscle cars. Today, the automaker announced a program to provide factory-backed performance parts for SRT Hellcat cars. The components can be ordered and installed by one of Dodge's "Power Broker" dealerships.

Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Dodge's packages include graphics for the Challenger.Dodge

Called Direct Connection, the service is Dodge's official source for performance parts and other components. Dodge offers two kits for Challenger SRT models: Challenger SRT Hellcat Redeye cars can be upgraded to 885 horsepower and the standard Hellcat can be pushed to 750 ponies. In all, Direct Connection offers 14 kits for the Challenger and 13 race-ready kits. There are also four graphics packages for the Challenger Mopar Drag Park model.

Because of their connections with the company that designed and built the cars in the first place, factory-backed tuning and performance operations are usually top-notch. Dodge's program offers live technical support and an online catalog that allows users to mix and match performance parts using the site's "recipes." All parts that are installed or replaced by a certified Dodge dealer do not interfere with the cars' three-year/36,000-mile basic warranty or the five-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty.

Direct Connection Challenger Performance Parts | Dodge youtu.be

If Dodge-approved performance parts get you excited, you don't have long left to wait. The kits will go on sale late in the first quarter of 2022. The Dodge Power Brokers dealer network will also start around that time.

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