The Center for Automotive Research at Stanford's latest toy is an Audi TTS capable of handling fast cornering. We rode along as it did laps on a dirt test track.
During an open testing day, we watched as Shelley, an Audi TTS with an automated driving system, did laps around a dirt track in a field. The car was able to keep its line through the corners by using its programming to shuffle the steering wheel and properly apply acceleration and brakes.
Shelley is a collaboration between the Center for Automotive Research at Stanford and Volkswagen's Electronic Research Laboratory. The car's nickname comes from Michele Mouton, the first female driver to win the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. The Stanford team ultimately wants to send the car up the Pikes Peak course.
The Audi TTS has Quattro all-wheel drive and a turbocharged 2-liter engine. Normally a TTS makes 265 horsepower, but Shelley has been modified to 320. The team turned off traction and stability control, which interfered with its own automated systems.
The rear of the car is filled with high-tech gear, including processing boards to control steering, braking, acceleration, and the dual-clutch gearbox. Stanford also put a wireless router in here to make it easier to program the car.
The actual processor running the car's automated systems is only a 1.6GHz Pentium 3, built into this ruggedized case. As the car's systems already handle much of the work it does not need a lot of onboard processing capability.
With an electric power steering, the automation systems make the wheel turn when the car is cornering. It is an eerie experience watching the wheel make necessary corrections as the car slides around corners.