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 The car's powertrain has been replaced by electric motors and batteries.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 Mechanical steering, braking, and throttle controls have all been replaced by electric systems.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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All-new vehicle

The 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz splits worlds

It's not quite a truck or an SUV, but lands somewhere in the middle.

Hyundai

The 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz is one of the most unique vehicles to be released in a long time. It's not quite a pickup truck, but it's not quite a crossover or SUV, either. Landing somewhere in between the two segments, the vehicle is shorter than any pickup currently on sale today. Don't let its size fool you, though. The Santa Cruz packs a load of standard features, compelling technology, and a useful bed into its funky shape.

The internet is full of people who'll tell you that small pickups are destined to fail, but let me be clear: There is no reason that small, unibody pickup trucks can't become the norm for most people that think they "need" a truck. They're more maneuverable, cheaper to fuel, and easier on the wallet to buy. I think that's a pretty good reason to at least give them a chance, and after a full day behind the wheel, it's obvious the Hyundai Santa Cruz has enough merit to stand on its own as a useful and even fun vehicle to live with on a daily basis. Hyundai invited us to Santa Cruz, California to drive the new vehicle and see what it's all about, so let's dive in and take a look.


2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz Hyundai's signature LEDs add a futuristic touch to the Santa Cruz' grille.Hyundai


Competent Powertrains and Handling

The Santa Cruz comes standard with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 191 horsepower and 181 pound-feet of torque. Our test cars on the first drive event were equipped with the optional turbocharged 2.5-liter engine, which produces 281 horsepower and 311 pound-feet of torque. The lesser engine comes paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission and the turbo powerplant gets an eight-speed dual-clutch gearbox. In its top configuration, the Santa Cruz can tow up to 5,000 pounds.

The turbo engine and DCT pairing are a treat, and make the compact Santa Cruz feel lively and fun to drive. On California freeways, passing is effortless, and the transmission readily downshifts to provide more grunt on demand. As people in the Santa Cruz area know, the roads quickly shift from wide-open cruising to twisty mountain highways, and the Hyundai can make that transition with ease. Don't expect to keep pace with a dedicated sports car here, but the Santa Cruz' wide stance and capable suspension system keep the ride both comfortable and interesting.

From the driver's seat, it's easy to forget what you're driving. There's no indication of a pickup bed or anything resembling a pickup truck-like ride. That's thanks to the Santa Cruz' unibody design, which is the same one used in crossovers and in the Honda Ridgeline. Noise, however, is another story. While it's mostly controlled, freeway driving reveals weaknesses in the Hyundai's sound insulation. Rough pavement and grooved road surfaces send more sound into the cabin than expected, but it's far from severe.


2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz There's more than enough space here for most people, and configurable cargo options make it even more useful.Hyundai


Car-Like Comfort with Truck Utility

Cabin comfort and materials are another area where the Santa Cruz differentiates itself from traditional pickup trucks. Since the vehicle is based on the Tucson SUV, the layout inside is familiar and comfortable. The front seats are wide, deep, and nicely padded, and do a good job of holding the driver in place while flinging the Santa Cruz around mountain roads. Though I didn't have my kids' car seats on hand to test rear seat space, a visual inspection showed that there would be plenty of room for two kids without causing a tug-of-war with front-seat passengers for legroom.

The four-foot bed looks small on paper but is far more useful than you'd think in practice. Hyundai designed the space with under-bed storage, cargo D-ring tie-downs, side-bed storage compartments, and a sliding tonneau cover that is water-resistant. Owners can cut and insert wood pieces to create a sturdy shelf system with the bed's molded slot system, and Hyundai will offer several bed accessories, such as racks and cargo organizers.


2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz The optional 10.25-inch screen lacks wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, but looks great.Hyundai


Useful Tech and Safety Features

The top Limited trim with options gets a useful and configurable digital gauge cluster, along with a large 10.25-inch infotainment touchscreen. Hyundai's infotainment software is far from the most colorful or the fanciest on the market, but its straightforward operation makes it less distracting and much less frustrating to use when the vehicle is in motion.

Due to its limited time in existence, the Santa Cruz hasn't been crash-tested by either the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Standard safety features include lane keep assist, forward collision warnings with pedestrian detection, lane follow assist, and high beam assist. The SEL trim adds blind spot collision-avoidance assist and rear cross-traffic avoidance assist, while a surround-view camera, blind spot camera, and highway driving assist system are available.

The 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz is an interesting vehicle, and not just because it's unlike anything else on sale right now (that will soon change with the Ford Maverick). It's interesting, because of its infectious attitude, unrelenting utility, and funky style that all work together in a surprisingly cohesive and entertaining way. If I were in the market for a truck, and I always am, the Santa Cruz would be hard to ignore.

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Musical artist H.E.R. has worked with Honda designers to customize a Civic Type R.

Photo courtesy of American Honda Motor Co. Inc.
H.E.R. graced the stage at the 2021 Honda Civic Tour but before that happens, the R&B singer-songwriter has put her stamp on a custom-designed Honda Civic Type R. This one-off is part of a longstanding tradition of Civic Tour headliners designing a custom Civic.

The unique-looking model is a reflection of H.E.R.'s personal values. Nuance, subtlety, and "sharing your heart" are held high. This all starts with the car's exterior where a deep black matte finish washes over the model while chameleon-tinted headlamps and windows, purple brake calipers and nebula painted trim are presented as intriguing highlights.

Designers worked to customize the cabin as well, adding nebula painted accents and special LED interior lighting that changes colors based on music and sound inside the vehicle by featuring custom colors, moods, brightness levels and rotating color patterns, adjustable by a smartphone.

H.E.R. Unveils Custom ‘Honda Civic Type R’ Presented by the 2021 Honda Civic Tour www.youtube.com

"One of the things that drew me toward the Honda Civic Tour was knowing that I'd be able to design my own vehicle, and out of all Civics, I picked the pinnacle Civic Type R," said H.E.R. "Infusing my personality into all aspects of my performances, and also expressing it through my favorite products, is something that I am passionate about. So being able to create and share my custom Honda Civic Type R with my fans is just so special to me."

H.E.R.'s custom Civic Type R joins Honda vehicles designed by past Civic Tour headliners, including Maroon 5, OneRepublic, Demi Lovato, blink-182, Black Eyed Peas, One Direction, Charlie Puth and more.

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