Meet Shelley, the robotic car. The jazzed up Audi is the product of Stanford University researchers' mechanical work. By outfitting it with a computer and GPS system, the added brain power helped the car stick to its destined course.
The car took itself for a joy ride at the state fair in San Jose, showing off its skills to several journalists, including FOX. However, the researchers have bigger plans for Shelley: They hope that the smarter the cars are, the safer the streets are. One day, the car might automatically direct itself in bumper-to-bumper traffic and help the driver avoid unexpected situations.
The car isn't designed by some magical force, it's controlled by the force of friction. By focusing on controlling the friction, the researchers figured out how to maximize the friction on the road. In other words, the car can make sharp turns and can't easily spin out of control.
When it was first tested on the open expanses of Utah's salt flats, the car reached speeds of 130 miles per hour. Now, with a high speed run up Pikes Peak scheduled September, researchers are pushing the limits of autonomous vehicle performance, and teaching Shelley how to really hug the road.
Chris Gerdes, program director at the Center for Automotive Research at Stanford, says "if we can design a car with the capability of using all available friction, that can also help you in a turn, so, if you go into a slippery corner, it can use all of its capabilities to help you make that turn safely to be pointed in the direction you want to go and not to leave the lane."
The autonomous car can drive itself. And pretty soon, it might drive us.
Watch the video. I'm sure you don't mind, but just a word of warning: The car does look slightly possessed. Seriously, the wheel just turns on its own.