The team at the Center for Automotive Research at Stanford (CARS) are aiming to send a specially-equipped robotic Audi at break-neck speed up the tight bends that lead to Pikes Peak without a driver … something that hasn’t been done before.
Pikes Peak, Colorado Springs, sits atop a 12.4-mile Rocky Mountain road – a combination of paved and gravel track that has 156 turns and a climb of 4,720ft. An official contest for human drivers will take place in June, but the Audi nicknamed “Shelley” (after the first female driver to win the event, Michele Mouton) will attempt a timed race in September, when she will be alone on the track.
When the Pikes Peak race began in 1916, drivers brave enough to negotiate the dusty switchbacks and massive climb hoped their cars would not overheat or fall apart before reaching the 14,000-foot summit.
Though not afraid of the engine overheating, Shelley’s team, like the racers of the early 1900s, hopes this autonomous car will make it around the turns and up the mountain in one piece.
“Our first goal is to go up Pikes Peak at speeds resembling race speeds, keep the car stable around the corners and have everything work the way we want it to,” said Chris Gerdes, program director of CARS and leader of the graduate research team.
“We’re not going to put it on the mountain until we can do it safely,” he said.
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