Engineers Build an Electric, Autonomous DeLorean

The update to the iconic Back to the Future vehicle aims to improve the handling of emergency vehicles on slick roads.

It seems like nothing pulls at the nostalgic heartstrings quite like a car. For me, any time I think about that digital speedometer in my 1986 Chevy Z24, it makes me smile.

And many, it seems, feel similarly about the iconic DeLorean sports car. Made famous by its starring role in the Back to the Future movie trilogy, as well as the public demise of its founder, the DeLorean continues to inspire. 

Although it’s not literal time travel, a team from Stanford University has bestowed a collection of cutting-edge automotive technologies to modernize a 1981 DeLorean they’ve dubbed, obviously, MARTY. Jonathan Goh and his crew converted the vehicle from a V-6 to all-electric power, and added self-driving capabilities via on-board computers and pair of GPS antennae. The vehicle’s autonomous controls were complimented by a custom suspension and bigger brakes in an attempt to tackle a drifting course. 

Drifting is the style of driving where the car keeps moving forward while pointed sideways. And it seems MARTY was made to drift, as the vehicle completed the 1-kilometer course, dubbed MARTYkhana, flawlessly. 

Although two passengers are shown in the video, neither took control, letting the self-driving system control the DeLorean through precise turns, acceleration and braking.

Other than just being extremely awesome, the electric, self-driving, drifting DeLorean was designed with the goal of improving the handling of emergency vehicles on slippery roads. Despite how it looks, the nature of the course actually offered insights on ways for a vehicle to more safety travel on slick roadways by utilizing all the friction created by the tire and the road to better control the car.

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