Self-driving car taught to drift round corners by American researchers

The technology could one day be used to make normal autonomous cars safer

Doug Bolton@DougieBolton
Monday 23 May 2016 16:34
Georgia Tech develop autonomous dirt track car for aggressive driving

Self-driving cars have already taken to the road around the world, but they're all fairly conservative.

Google released amazing footage of its autonomous car making its way around test tracks and public roads last year, and while the ride looks smooth and comfortable, it's not that exciting.

A team of researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology have stepped in to fill the gap, with a driverless model car capable of drifting round corners at high speeds.

Using an array of sensors and on-board computers, the one-fifth-scale rally car can stay under control even at the very edge of its handling limits.

Even though it would be travelling at 90mph when scaled up, the car stays on its course, lifting off the track and sliding but remaining stable.

When aggressively going round a corner at the university's test track, the computer makes more than 2,500 calculations in one-sixtieth of a second to figure out the best trajectory to take and the right amount of power to put down.


It's an impressive (and cool) feat in itself, but the car's underlying technology has real-world uses.

"An autonomous vehicle should be able to handle any condition, not just drive on the highway under normal conditions," said Panagiotis Tsiotras, an aerospace engineering professor who worked on the project.

"One of our principal goals is to infuse some of the expert techniques of human drivers into the brains of these autonomous vehicles."

Speaking in a video showing off the team's creation, Tsiotras said: "The algorithms that we have developed are able to project into the future what the vehicle is going to do in the next four or five seconds and generate approximately two or three thousand possibilities of what is going to happen."

By putting these algorithms into full-size autonomous cars, the team could make them safer and more capable, even under normal road conditions.

In a few decades when your self-driving Google car stays on the road after skidding round an icy corner, you'll be grateful for Georgia Tech's work

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