Researchers at Georgia Institute of Technology in the United States have built tiny, self-driving vehicles designed to drift around dirt tracks at speeds of up to 60 miles per hour without crashing, Evan Ackerman at IEEE Spectrum reports.
Drifting is a technique used by racing drivers. It involves the driver deliberately oversteering when entering a corner so that the vehicle’s wheels lose traction. This makes the car glide impressively around the corner at a high speed.
The little electric vehicle on the right is able to drift but operates without a driver using software called AutoRally, which enables it to stay in control (withstanding most crashes and roll-overs) while driving aggressively.
The car is 1 meter-long, 21 kilograms, and protected by a tough aluminium enclosure, according to IEEE. It was recently let loose on a dirt track in Georgia.
The aim of the test was to see if AutoRally could hit speeds of up to 8 metres a second without crashing. As shown below, it expertly handled the high speeds by drifting into corners like a rally car.
When this footage was shot, the software was still being developed which meant that AutoRally was susceptible to sudden changes in terrain.
However, even when the vehicle’s momentum was stunted by rough track, the sophisticated technology meant that it was able to recover by itself.
The test wasn’t a total success. AutoRally did crash a few times.
However, the research team behind the project told IEEE Spectrum last week that the software has since been updated. Now, AutoRally can drive around tracks continuously and cope with all sorts of terrains — from partially frozen surfaces to massive puddles of mud.
You can watch the full clip of AutoRally in action below.
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