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Stanford's Autonomous Racer Hits 120 MPH on the Track

Shelley posts track times up there with the best human drivers, and she's only going to get faster

2 min read
Stanford's Autonomous Racer Hits 120 MPH on the Track

We first met Stanford's robotic Audi TTS back in 2009, and while it's managed to climb Pike's Peak all by itself, it didn't do so in a time that was all that impressive. More recently, Stanford let Shelley off the leash at California's Thunderhill Raceway, where it almost (almost!) destroyed all human drivers with some aggressive laps around the track.

Unlike those Google autonomous cars, Shelley can't navigate in traffic or in unfamiliar environments. She just uses GPS to get where she's going, and she'll plow right through anything that gets in her way, which is why she's restricted to racetracks. Her talents lie in her ability to sense the limits of her own performance, which allows her to drive right on the edge of what's physically possible.

On Thunderhill, Shelley clocked times that were close to (but not better than) professional human drivers, probably because the exactly line that the car calculated and followed proved to be slightly less efficient than a "smoother," optimized path that a human might choose. To fix this, Stanford is sending professional drivers around racetracks while hooked up to brainwave sensors to see if they can figure out where on the track humans have to concentrate and think ahead.

The point of all of this, besides a concerted effort on the part of Stanford to render NASCAR obsolete, is to teach your car how to drive on the edge of control. Potentially, this could save your life: since it's probably safe to assume that you don't have the experience of a professional race car driver, if your car does, it can take over if necessary (like, in the event of an impending accident) and successfully steer you to safety.

Via [ Stanford ]

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The Bionic-Hand Arms Race

The prosthetics industry is too focused on high-tech limbs that are complicated, costly, and often impractical

12 min read
A photograph of a young woman with brown eyes and neck length hair dyed rose gold sits at a white table. In one hand she holds a carbon fiber robotic arm and hand. Her other arm ends near her elbow. Her short sleeve shirt has a pattern on it of illustrated hands.

The author, Britt Young, holding her Ottobock bebionic bionic arm.

Gabriela Hasbun. Makeup: Maria Nguyen for MAC cosmetics; Hair: Joan Laqui for Living Proof

In Jules Verne’s 1865 novel From the Earth to the Moon, members of the fictitious Baltimore Gun Club, all disabled Civil War veterans, restlessly search for a new enemy to conquer. They had spent the war innovating new, deadlier weaponry. By the war’s end, with “not quite one arm between four persons, and exactly two legs between six,” these self-taught amputee-weaponsmiths decide to repurpose their skills toward a new projectile: a rocket ship.

The story of the Baltimore Gun Club propelling themselves to the moon is about the extraordinary masculine power of the veteran, who doesn’t simply “overcome” his disability; he derives power and ambition from it. Their “crutches, wooden legs, artificial arms, steel hooks, caoutchouc [rubber] jaws, silver craniums [and] platinum noses” don’t play leading roles in their personalities—they are merely tools on their bodies. These piecemeal men are unlikely crusaders of invention with an even more unlikely mission. And yet who better to design the next great leap in technology than men remade by technology themselves?

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