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Stanford Creates the Driver-less Racecar


The brilliant minds at Stanford have finally created the autonomous racer.

While companies like Google, Mercedes-Benz and Ford are in the process of developing autonomous driving systems for the public roads, the brilliant minds at Stanford University's Dynamic Design Lab have jumped the shark, so to speak, and created Shelley - an autonomous racecar for the track. The robotic racecar is based on the Audi TTS and it recently hit speeds as high as 120mph on the 3-mile long Thunderhill Raceway, located just north of Sacramento, California.

The most impressive thing about Shelley, however, is that it can lap the track in under two and a half minutes - a time which rivals even some professional drivers. Built through a partnership with Volkswagen's Electronics Research Lab, Shelley could eventually lead to driver-replacing technology. In regards to the near future, the data and information derived from these tests are more likely to be manifested in a production car in the form of a co-pilot, in a sense, leading the driver out of a dangerous situation on the road.

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Mechanical engineering Associate Professor Chris Gerdes said of Shelley's performance on the track in comparison to professional drivers that "Human drivers are very, very smooth. Shelley computes the fastest line around a course and executes the exact corrections required to stick to it. "A person relies more on feel and intuition, and thus may, for example, allow the car to swing too wide in one turn if he knows it sets him up better for the next. Human drivers are OK with the car operating in a comfortable range of states. We're trying to capture some of that spirit."

If Stanford's autonomous racer sounds almost too good to be true (or futuristic, for that matter), check out the clip below to see Shelly in action on the track in NorCal.

Next up for Stanford's awe-inspiring autonomous Audi TTS is incorporating data taken from sensors both mechanical and biological during the racing of the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion at Laguna Seca last week. Using sensors from both the drivers and vehicle, they feel they can improve Shelley's driving ability on the road and put down some even faster lap times.