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 The car's powertrain has been replaced by electric motors and batteries.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 Mechanical steering, braking, and throttle controls have all been replaced by electric systems.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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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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The 2022 Infiniti QX60 is expected to hit the market later this year.

Photo courtesy of Infiniti Motors

The next-gen Infiniti QX60 is almost here. The long-awaited successor to the top-selling Infiniti model has been in the works for a while but the first official glimpse at the SUV happens today with the release of a teaser photo and video of the interior.

Billed as being "serene" and "spacious", the family-friendly crossover will retain its three rows of seating when it arrives stateside. It will also have premium leather appointments, intuitive technology, and ambient lighting, according to a release sent by the company.

The model was first teased in a private video shown to journalists in the autumn of 2019. Since there, a number of changes have been made. The fresh images show off a wide but not tall infotainment screen, similar to what you'd find on a Lexus or Hyundai. There's what appears to be a fully digital radio/climate controls screen on the center stack with physical dials for adjusting certain functionalities.

All-New 2022 INFINITI QX60 Tech Stories: Performance - Intelligent All-Wheel Drive (AWD) www.youtube.com

There's a quilted leather dashboard and long horizontal design feature that seamlessly covers the dashboard vents under one housing. Though not shown, the QX60 is expected to have a fully digital instrument cluster.

Infiniti has already divulged a few key details about the revised QX60. It will be powered by a 295-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 engine that is paired with a nine-speed automatic transmission. That's the same power plant that is in the 2022 Nissan Pathfinder. The SUV will be available with all-wheel drive. It's likely that the QX60 will have drive modes similar to those in the Pathfinder.

The model will have a 6,000-pound maximum towing capacity. A 3,500-pound maximum is standard.

Infiniti is promising a Sports drive mode where the movement, power, and control of the car are said to be similar to those in a sports car. Gears are held longer and engine braking helps along the way.

The 2022 Infiniti QX60 is expected to arrive in North American showrooms in the fall of 2021, followed by other markets worldwide. It will debut June 23.

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