Stanford University's robotics lab has built autonomous cars for several years. Recently, it established a land speed record for a robot car -- 140 mph in an Audi TT-S nicknamed "Shelly". But their next goal is even more ambitious: to have Shelly race the twisted dirt road that leads up to Pike's Peak. Chris Dannen writes in Fast Company about the changes that allow the car to safely navigate sharper turns at higher speeds:
The new autonomous TT-S is markedly different from Junior, however. Junior was environmentally-aware; it had cameras that could see objects and road features, and it paired that data with GPS data. All that processing required two on-board Linux computers running quad-core Pentium chips and programmed in C and C++.
The new TT-S, unofficially dubbed "Shelly," uses a different system. It has no cameras, only GPS, and a smaller, less powerful computing box running Sun's Java Real Time System running on Solaris. Why? Despite Junior's speedy processors, it still takes the car between 20-50 milliseconds to react to inputs from its sensory equipment. Because the TT-S "Shelly" is traveling at much higher speeds--the team has pushed it over 140 mph--even 20 milliseconds is too much of a delay.
You can view more videos of the project at the link.