This year’s races were live-streamed, so the world got a front row seat when a vehicle from the Schaffhausen Institute of Technology sped off the line, took a hard right and drove straight into a concrete wall.
And while the internet reacted with jeers and laughter, an engineer from SIT’s team was quick to place blame not on the technology, but on a human involved in the race. The engineer said the problem began in the initialization lap, which is when a human driver takes the car to the start line. It’s not clear exactly how, but it appears the driver locked the steering wheel to the right.
According to a Reddit post by the SIT engineer, “We are looking at the log values and can see that our controller was trying to steer the car back to the left, but the car did not execute the steering command due to a steering lock. The desired trajectory was also good; the car definitely did not plan to go into the wall."
Fair, but not exactly reassuring. As the Drive aptly pointed out in a follow-up report, “this is why self-driving is hard.”
Ed. note: This article has been updated to correct the name of the university.