You May Think You’ve Seen It All, But You Haven’t Seen An Autonomous Drifting DeLorean

[Video: Stanford via YouTube]

It’s been a few years in the making, but engineers at Stanford University have seriously refined this electric DeLorean to run circles around anything you’d expect when you first see it in the video above. “Run circles” is pretty accurate, actually, as the video above shows the car drifting on its own around a kilometer-long course, with absolutely no intervention from the humans onboard.

Yes, we now live in a world where a freaking DeLorean can drift, on its own, around a course. Meet Marty, otherwise known as the Multiple Actuator Research Test Bed for Yaw). The name is a nod, as is the car itself, to the Back to the Future series. However, the similarities more or less begin with the name and the looks.

Underneath, the traditional drivetrain has been replaced by electric motors. There’s a total of 7,000 Newton-meters of torque to each of the rear wheels, and computers are able to control the acceleration, braking and steering. The Stanford team programmed Marty with the course layout at Thunderhill Raceway in California, then sent it out to throw down this spectacular performance.

The car’s performance is more or less on par with a professional drifter, at least it looks that way after watching the video. While it looks awesome, the team says the goal is to improve autonomous systems beyond their current capability. With research like this, engineers can program the systems to handle trickier conditions and take evasive action without skidding out of control.

The team said of the project, “We’re trying to develop automated vehicles that can handle emergency maneuvers or slippery surfaces like ice or snow. 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.”