(JONATHAN GOH)

Stanford's autonomous drifting DeLorean looks ready to race

Practice makes perfect. An engineering team at Stanford University has spent the past four years teaching a DeLorean how to drift, and it’s gotten pretty good at it.

The stainless steel sports car was converted to electric drive by the school's Dynamic Design Lab and equipped with computer-controlled steering and brakes, hyper-accurate GPS, a custom suspension and software designed with information gleaned from studying professional drivers.

(JONATHAN GOH)

It’s nicknamed MARTY, which stands for Multiple Actuator Research Test bed for Yaw control and is a tribute to Marty McFly from the “Back to The Future” film series that made the DeLorean famous.

“We’re trying to develop automated vehicles that can handle emergency maneuvers or slippery surfaces like ice or snow,” team leader Chris Gerdes said in a press release.

(JONATHAN GOH)

“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.”

To do that, it programmed the car to drive beyond the limits of grip without losing control. At first, it could only do a single donut around a cone, but the latest demonstration shows it traversing a complex drift course with several turns going in both directions and very little margin for error.

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The goal is to develop an autonomous stability control system that’s better than anything currently available and can make even quicker transitions on more challenging tracks than MARTY can handle today.