Watch: This Electric DeLorean Drifts for Science

In order to learn more about how autonomous cars handle emergency manoeuvres and help make the technology safer and more reliable, a team of mechanical engineers at Stanford University has created a driverless DMC DeLorean and programmed it to drift around a slalom course at the Thunderhill Raceway Park in California.

No, it’s not just a stunt; it's a serious research project, the university claims.

"We want the car to be able to avoid any accident that's avoidable within the laws of physics," explains Chris Gerdes, one of the project’s architects. "If we can conquer how to safely control the car in the most stable and the most unstable scenarios, it becomes easier to connect the dots in between.”

Gerdes and his partner Jonathan Goh say they wanted a rear-wheel drive car that could easily be modified and looked cool in the process. They chose the iconic DeLorean and even nicknamed their prototype MARTY—which stands Multiple Actuator Research Test Bed for Yaw control—as further reference to the 1985 movie "Back to the Future."

Among other things, the 130-horsepower, 2.85-litre V6 engine was replaced by electric motors that send more than 500 pound-feet of torque to each rear wheel. A firmer suspension was installed along with new computer-controlled steering technology that goes lock to lock in less than a second. The car also features electronically controlled brakes that are more precise than hydraulic ones, plus a pair of GPS antennas on the roof detailing its position with extreme accuracy.

The researchers say the results so far are rather outstanding, and as you can see in the video MARTY completes the course without knocking over a single cone.

“We're about 90 percent of the way to our driverless future," Gerdes estimates.

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