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RC Trucks Learning to Drift at High Speeds Will Make Self-Driving Cars Safer

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Michael Vaughn
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The AutoRally platform is technically still a toy, but at almost 40-inches in length and with a top-speed of 62 miles per hour, it s a perfect fifth-scale replica of a human-sized car.

After a couple of low-speed human-controlled practice laps on a dirt track to familiarize the truck s AI with the simple course, the vehicle was left to navigate it all on its own, while trying to maintain a constant speed of around 18 miles per hour.

Using specially-developed algorithms that calculate 2,560 different possible trajectories for the oncoming two-and-a-half seconds of travel, the truck calculates the best possible way to safely navigate a corner or straightaway all by itself using its steering, acceleration, and braking.

Most of the time that includes power-sliding around a corner to maintain as much of its speed as possible—a skill that the little truck learns all by itself through trial and error.

The key innovation here isn t about teaching autonomous cars how to safely drift around corners at high speeds—as cool as it looks.

Slowing to a crawl every time it rains will keep self-driving cars safe, but they won t do the world any favors when it comes to traffic jams.

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Michael Vaughn
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