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Great Scott! Stanford Invented a Self-Driving DeLorean Just in Time for Back to the Future Day

But does it use 1.21 gigawatts of electricity?

smithsonian.com

30-odd years ago, the DeLorean DMC was the hottest car around. It was a vehicle so iconic and eye-catching that it became Doc Brown’s time machine in Back to the Future. Just in time for October 21, 2015—the fateful day when Marty McFly and Doc Brown land in the 21st century—the sleek machine has been given a futuristic update, writes Alex Davies for WIRED. Researchers at Stanford University have taught the car not just to drive itself, but to drift.

The mods are part of a project called MARTY: Multiple Actuator Research Test bed for Yaw control. Though a spinning, drifting DeLorean might look fun, the project is actually serious, writes Davies. Its goal is to help automated vehicles get better at executing maneuvers to escape harm.

The DeLorean was perfect test vehicle for these over-the-top moves. Since DeLoreans aren’t produced anymore, the car’s public image isn't at stake, researchers tell Davies.

Inspired by car racers, the car makes tradeoffs between stability and maneuvering ability, says team leader Jonathon Goh in a press release. Ultimately he hopes to produce safer, more fluid systems for self-driving cars on and off the race track. Marty McFly would be proud—this slick self-driving car boasts both frame upgrades and tweaked algorithms.

For now, MARTY is focused on drifting and donuts. The car already can lock into a doughnut on its own, which is a great accomplishment for autonomous vehicles. Soon, researchers say they will hit the race track.

The sublime awesomeness of riding in a DeLorean that does perfect, smoke-filled doughnuts by itself is a mind-bending experience that helps you appreciate that we really are living in the future,” Goh says in the press release.

You are as unlikely to see a self-driving DeLorean on the actual streets as Biff on a hoverboard, but perhaps Back to the Future will continue to inform what’s inside cars long past 2015.

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