This probably wasn’t the showcase of autonomous technology Siemens was hoping for.
Turns out the Robocar wasn’t the only car that attempted an autonomous run at the Goodwood Hillclimb. Unlike the self-driving racecar, however, this autonomous Mustang needed a backup driver behind the wheel just in case – and we can now see why. Developed in collaboration with Siemens and Cranfield University, the autonomous 1965 Ford Mustang attempted a run up the Goodwood Hillclimb, but it didn’t go very smoothly. Far from an exciting glimpse into the future, the Mustang’s Hillclimb run looked like a drunk driver attempting to drive home.
As the video shows, the autonomous Mustang struggles to navigate the track on its own and swerves off course several times, causing the safety driver to intervene. At one point, the driver didn’t react in time as the self-driving muscle car slammed into some hay bales.
Luckily, the incident, which happens at around 24 minutes in a video posted on Facebook taken from live coverage, was relatively minor, but it still isn’t a great showcase of autonomous technology. The car only relies on GPS signals instead of advanced radars like other autonomous cars, which may explain why the Mustang was unable to navigate the course without intervention as a loss of GPS signal would likely cause the car to behave erratically. By contrast, the self-driving Robocar successfully navigated the Goodwood Hillclimb without incident, but the car is equipped with more accurate cameras and LiDAR sensors.
According to Driving, the autonomous Mustang originally came with optional power steering, but a power steering pipe sprang a leak before the Hillclimb run, resulting in “sudden changes in pressure.” The led to a software conflict, so the driver had to constantly make corrections. Surprisingly, the car was also deliberately programmed to weave along the course because the TV production company “thought it would look better on camera if we could see the steering wheel moving on its own.” This clearly backfired, because the autonomous Mustang looked completely out of control. Given the current safety concerns about self-driving technology in the wake of the fatal Uber crash, that probably wasn’t the best idea.