DRIFTING INTO THE FUTURE ... If "Back to the Future'' merged with "The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift," MARTY would be the impressive results of the mashup. Short for Multiple Actuator Research Test bed for Yaw control, MARTY is a 1981 DeLorean that Stanford University's Dynamic Design Lab repurposed into an all-electric, autonomous vehicle that can drift, according to a Dec. 20 article by Stanford News. Drifting is a deliberate movement where the vehicle intentionally oversteers, with a loss of traction, while maintaining control through the entirety of a corner. (The technique essentially forces car to slide sideways through a turn.) Engineers at the lab gutted the original car and replaced the insides with a slew of upgrades, including an electric motor, a stiffer suspension that can handle controlled oversteering and a computer-controlled steering system to safely and successfully drift the vehicle through complicated maneuvers. The car was recently put to the test on a kilometer-long obstacle course at the Thunderhill Raceway Park in Willows, a city 35 miles southwest of Chico, with on-board computers recording the results. Expertly drifting through sharp turns and zigzags, MARTY completed the track without knocking over a single cone on its first try, according to the article. It's a novel feat by today's standards, but engineers at Dynamic Design Lab hope to use the results of the tests to develop self-driving cars in the near future that can better handle emergency maneuvers, especially during hazardous road conditions like rain or snow. Most autonomous cars today are designed to handle simple conditions such as staying within a lane and maintaining a safe distance from other cars, but it's all too common to hear of a Tesla on Autopilot driving into a concrete barrier as a result of limited system programming. The project team will continue to experiment with incorporating front and rear brakes to open up the car's capabilities for autonomous driving, which will allow MARTY to make sharper turns in quicker succession and teach the vehicle to handle extreme circumstances for an overall safer driving experience.
HAVE YOUR SAY ... Do you think Palo Alto's Boulware Park is in need of a dog park, more play structures or pickleball courts? Those ideas and more could be considered by the city's Public Works Department, which is gathering the community's input on the future of the Ventura neighborhood's only open space, which is set for renovation. The 1.5-acre triangular site will expand by 0.64 acres through the city's $2.75 million purchase last year of a neighboring, vacant parcel from the Pacific Bell Telephone Company, which considered putting the property on the market. From now through Friday, Jan. 24, the public can fill out an online survey at https://bit.ly/2sT2kl6.
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