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Watch Stanford's Autonomous Audi TTS Hit 120 MPH

Skynet has become self aware. Well, not quite, but Stanford's autonomous Audi TTS, Shelley, gave several human drivers a run for their money at California's Thunderhill Raceway.


Shelley can't weave through traffic like Google's automated car. She's designed to handle course changes, but without recognizing obstructions in her path. She can also drive very fast on a track by using GPS to calculate the car's position on the track, pushing itself to its mechanical limits.


One of the first big challenges Stanford's Audi faced was a solo hill climb at Pikes Peak in 2009. The car didn't turn in primo numbers, but the fact that it completed the course without a human driver is impressive.

This time, though, Shelley made huge gains against her human competitors. Stanford engineers said that the technology could someday be used on passenger cars to enhance safety. The idea is that the car's computer brain could take over when its driver's brain fails to execute accident avoidance maneuvers adequately. Most motorists aren't professionally trained racing drivers.

Now that you've seen the car hooning itself around a track, imagine 12 of these things racing or avoiding a pileup on the freeway. The robot renaissance is truly on its way.

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An all robot racing series would be interesting. It would allow designers to completely disregard any and all driver safety concerns and go balls-out with raw speed and handling. I'd watch it with great interest as an engineer.