A number of people believe that autonomous cars capable of carrying passengers with little or no human control will someday replace cars as we know them today. In fact, some industry watchers think it might happen sooner than you think. But are workday commutes and typical day-to-day trips the extent to which these driverless cars will gain appeal and adoption, or will they also tackle entertainment?
As it turns out, racecar drivers everywhere might want to keep a close eye on the autonomous car space, because they may soon find themselves out of a job.
It’s not just Apple working on exciting new driverless car technology. Researchers at Stanford University have developed a souped up autonomous Audi TTS, and they recently took it to a track in Northern California to let the car strut its stuff.
The car’s performance on the track was impressive enough, but even more impressive was the fact that the fastest lap time recorded by the university’s driverless software bested track owner and amateur touring class champion David Vodden’s top time by 0.4 seconds.
“We’ve been trying to develop cars that perform like the very best human drivers,” Stanford Professor Chris Gerdes told The Telegraph. Gerdes is the director of the Revs Programme at the Centre for Automotive Research at Stanford University.
“Race car drivers are really fantastic using all the friction between the tire and the road to get around the track,” the professor continued. “Now they are doing that to be fast but the same mathematics holds whether you’re a race car driver trying to go around the corner without going off the track or spinning, or whether you’re a normal driver going on an icy road where you come in a turn to fast and you want to stay in your lane. So by looking at race car drivers we are actually looking at the same mathematical problem that we use for safety on the highways. We’ve got the point of being fairly comparable to an expert driver in terms of our ability to drive around the track.”
A video showing the driverless TTS racing around Thunderhill Raceway Park in Northern California at speeds above 120 mph is embedded below.