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Driverless DeLorean shows off drift skills [Video]

Stanford engineers suggest their project can help autonomous software deal with hazardous conditions.

A team of Stanford engineers has created a self-drifting DeLorean to push the limits of autonomous control systems.

A video shows the modified all-electric DeLorean sliding around cones at Thunderhill Raceway in Northern California, smoothly performing a series of tire-shredding drifts. The course was set up with curves of varying radii and required several direction changes.

The project was narrowly focused on steering/throttle controls and vehicle dynamics, presenting a much more challenging set of maneuvers than typical autonomous cars are designed to handle. The team suggests its achievements can help self-driving vehicles improve evasive maneuvers and stay in control on slick surfaces such as ice.

"We'd like to develop automated vehicles that can use all of the friction between the tire and the road to get the car out of harm's way," says Stanford mechanical engineering professor Chris Gerdes. "We want the car to be able to avoid any accident that's avoidable within the laws of physics."

Media attention tends to focus on fully autonomous cars, however the Stanford technology could theoretically be used to improve performance of next-generation accident-avoidance technology that can take over both the steering and brakes to avoid an imminent collision when the vehicle is operating under manual control.

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