Watch: Shelley, a driverless car that races at 120mph

2 Mar 2016

Shelley, the autonomous car from Stanford University, image via YouTube

Autonomous vehicles are on the way but, as yet, they seem very boring. Very slow. Very ugly. Except this 120mph speedster, that is.

Students at Stanford University in the US have been researching their autonomous racing car ‘Shelley’ for a few years now, putting it through its paces on a race track.

Reaching speeds up to 120mph, the university’s professor of mechanical engineering, Chris Gerdes, has had his students monitoring the handling, g-force, pace and braking of the car.

Why? Because most of the time around the track Shelley is racing at around 50-75mph, which Gerdes thinks is a more realistic speed for a relatively standard road traffic incident.

Autonomous cars

Of course, Google’s autonomous car managed to crash at just 3kmh, so acute knowledge of handling won’t always come into play. But, in general, this research is no bad thing.

Understanding how the car handles all the friction of its tires, manipulates its downforce and generally just performs in these situations could inform the development of automatic collision avoidance software in the near future.

“A race car driver can use all of a car’s functionality to drive fast,” said Gerdes. “We want to access that same functionality to make driving safer.

“Once you get to the track, things can go differently than you expect. So it’s an excellent lesson of advanced planning, but also how to come together as a team and deal with changing priorities.”

I once boiled red cabbage in science class to see if the water turned red. These kids are racing a driverless car around a track at 120mph. I feel I should share this.

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic