Stanford engineers built an autonomous DeLorean capable of stable, precise drifting at large angles in order to study how cars perform in extreme situations, which could ultimately guide the development of autonomous safety protocols. Named MARTY – Multiple Actuator Research Test bed for Yaw control – the car is already proving to be an excellent vehicle for student-driven research.

MARTY is inspected by Stanford students who transformed a 1981 DeLorean into a high-performance test vehicle. (Photo: David Bush)

Electronic stability control, or ESC, is a feature in most modern cars that ensures that the car stays within the boundaries of stable handling by, for example, applying brakes to certain wheels or even cutting engine power when needed. Autonomous cars must be able to handle all operating regimes, not just the simple one imposed by ESC. Learning how to program a car like MARTY to autonomously make the decision to trade the easiness of stability in order to drive with the fluidity and precision of a professional driver is at the heart of the lab's research into figuring out how to use all of a car's capabilities to create self-driving systems that will control the car more safely in all circumstances.