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Self-Driving Car Faces Off Against Pro On Thunderhill Racetrack

October 31st, 2012 10:37 admin View Comments

AI

Hugh Pickens writes “Rachel Swaby reports that a self-driving car and a seasoned race-car driver recently faced off at Northern California’s three-mile Thunderhill Raceway loop. The autonomous vehicle is a creation from the Center for Automotive Research at Stanford (CARS). ‘We tried to model [the self-driving car] after what we’ve learned from the best race-car drivers,’ says Chris Gerdes (who talks more about the development of autonomous cars in this TED talk). So who won? Humans, of course. But only by a few measly seconds. ‘What the human drivers do is consistently feel out the limits of the car and push it just a little bit farther,’ explained Gerdes. ‘When you look at what the car is capable of and what humans achieve, that gap is really actually small.’ Because the self-driving car reacts to the track as if it were controlled in real time by a human, a funny thing happens to passengers along for the ride. Initially, when the car accelerates to 115 miles per hour and then breaks just in time to make it around a curve, the person riding shotgun freaks out. But a second lap looks very different. Passengers tend to relax, putting their faith in the automatically spinning wheel. ‘We might have a tendency to put too much confidence in it,’ cautioned Gerdes. ‘Watching people experience it, they’ll say, oh, that was flawless.’ Gerdes reaction: ‘Wait wait! This was developed by a crazy professor and graduate students!’”

Source: Self-Driving Car Faces Off Against Pro On Thunderhill Racetrack

Around the World in 80 Days: Electric Car Race Begins

August 17th, 2010 08:40 admin View Comments

The goal: 80 days, 18,000 miles, no emissions.

Yesterday, the Zero Race electric car world tour began in front of the United Nations Palace in Geneva, Switzerland. Four teams–from Australia, Switzerland, Germany, and South Korea–won’t actually race one another to cross a finish line. Instead, spectators and experts will determine the winner based on reliability, energy efficiency, safety, design, and practicality, as the tour is meant to show the feasibility of electric vehicles.

zerorace

The race organizer Louis Palmer won the European Solar Prize after driving a solar-powered vehicle around the world in 2008. He says in a press release that the “race” is against climate change and disappearing fuel.

“Petrol is running out, and the climate crisis is coming… and we are all running against time.” [Zero Race]

The race route cuts through 150 major cities, where spectators can vote for their favorite car design. Judges will decide each individual car’s reliability based on the number of repairs it requires during the race; a panel of race car drivers will evaluate the cars’ power and speed; and vehicle manufacturers will test the cars for energy efficiency.

zero-raceThe cars must be shipped over the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and the race organizers say that they will compensate for emissions from this transport as well as other incidental race emissions with investments into renewable energy projects. Each team cannot use any more power than they have generated or purchased from renewable energy sources. Australian team leader Jason Jones says it will cost only $360 US to power his sleek, light-weight electric car around the world.

“We’ve already bought the power and put it back in the grid,” 57-year-old Jones senior explained, standing next to their plastic-bodied two-seat three wheeler. “We thought it just a great way to show what this car is capable of. The future of automotive transport is not a one-and-a-half tonne gas guzzler.” [AFP]

Battery problems delayed the South Korean car from starting the race with the other teams yesterday, but the other teams had a successful start.

Swiss competitor Toby Wuelser claims his futuristic design can do 350 kilometres [217 miles] on a single charge and reach speeds up to 250 kilometres an hour [155 miles per hour]. “It’s like flying half a metre above the ground,” he said before boarding the bullet-shaped vehicle and zipping silently up the hill to the starting line. [The Canadian Press]

Car enthusiasts in the United States can catch the vehicles in San Francisco, Los Angeles, or Austin in the fall. After that, the cars will head to Mexico City and then Cancun where the racers plan to participate in late November’s World Climate Change Conference.

Image: Zero Race

Source: Around the World in 80 Days: Electric Car Race Begins