Home » DARPA’s Autonomous Vehicle Development Program Returns To Rugged Terrain

DARPA’s Autonomous Vehicle Development Program Returns To Rugged Terrain

Morning Dump Av Stanley

DARPA takes its autonomous vehicle funding off the beaten path, TVR announces an electric Griffith, Tesla recalls some Model 3s for gauge issues. All this can be found in today’s issue of The Morning Dump

Welcome to The Morning Dump, bite-sized stories corralled into a single article for your morning perusal. If your morning coffee’s working a little too well, pull up a throne and have a gander at the best of the rest of yesterday.

Full Self Baja

Stanley autonomous vehicle 2
Photo credit: Stanford Racing

If you were around in 2005 and even vaguely interested in new European cars, you’ve probably heard of Stanley. This Stanford-converted Volkswagen Touraeg-based autonomous vehicle featured a five-LIDAR array on its roof, six 1.6 GHz Pentium M-based computers in the back, on-board GPS, a special odometer to extrapolate distance should GPS signal be lost, and a video camera for long-distance vision. Did I mention that Stanley was based on an authentic Euro-market model with the five-cylinder TDI diesel engine? Anyway, Stanley won the 2005 DARPA Grand Challenge, an off-road autonomous vehicle (AV) competition put on by the Department of Defense. With a grand prize of two million dollars and massive AV cred on the line, it’s safe to say that Stanley’s now immortalized.

If you were absolutely stoked for the 2005 DARPA Grand Challenge, I have some fantastic news. After 17 years, DARPA is once again sending AVs into the rough. This time it’s not a competition, but a four-year grant for Intel Labs to develop off-road autonomous vehicle tech. German Ros, director of the Autonomous Agents Lab at Intel Labs, has high hopes for the program. Speaking with Automotive News, Ros said, “In this project, we’re creating a simulation platform that can accurately generate all types of extreme situations, helping autonomous ground vehicles learn how to effectively navigate off-road environments at high speeds.” Best of all, this isn’t just a theoretical software development program. Carnegie Mellon University, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the University of Washington will be in charge of data collection and real-world autonomous vehicle testing. Sweet!

Silence Is Also An Answer

Tvr Griffith
Photo credit: TVR

For the better part of 76 years, the TVR name has been attached to some of the most hairy-assed sports cars in the world. The Griffith 400 was a 289 Ford V8-powered slingshot that weighed less than a Shelby Cobra, the 1988 450 SEAC used Kevlar in its construction to hit a top speed of 175 mph, the infamous TVR Speed 12 was canned for being completely unusable on the road. Now though, a kinder, friendlier TVR has been announced, though don’t confuse friendlier with slower.

See, lithium mining company Enscoria has announced a multi-million dollar investment in the British sports car firm that’ll wipe TVR’s debt to the Welsh government, support production of the Ford 5.0-liter Coyote V8-powered Griffith sports car and spawn a limited-run electric version of the Griffith. As of right now, details on the electric Griffith are sparse. As of right now, we know that it’ll be built in the UK and feature some sort of soundtrack. In TVR’s own words directly off of their website, “We’ll be working with a completely lovely bunch of secret squirrels to bring the characteristic TVR noise into the world of electrification.” Right on. I know that sincerely expecting an electric TVR may sound like hopeless optimism, but I swear I’m an optimist. I want every new car to be cool, drive well and be successful. Especially new sports cars, as driving is supposed to be joyous. Hats off to TVR for promising the best of both worlds, a dino-burning stick-shift V8 sports car for our id and a lightweight electric sports car as an arms-wide-open embracement of the future.

Speedo Deleto

The Tesla Model 3 Performance, not a Level 3 autonomous vehicle
Photo credit: Courtesy of Tesla, Inc.

“I don’t know, Officer, the speedometer disappeared” isn’t normally a valid excuse for speeding, but a few Tesla Model 3 Performance owners might just be able to try it on for size. Yes, Tesla has issued another recall, although this one’s smaller in scope than the well-known Boombox recall.

If you were to put a 2018 to 2022 Tesla Model 3 Performance into track mode, you may find that the speedometer vanishes. Funnily enough, this isn’t some long-standing issue, it was part of a mildly botched software update rolled out in December. According to recall documents, 48,184 units are affected, although the remedy is said to be an easy, breezy over-the-air update. Honestly, this isn’t the first time than an over-the-air update has messed something up – just look at what some Volvo owners are dealing with. However, a disappearing speedometer is definitely a new phenomenon, and a mildly dangerous one at that. Even setting aside the use of track mode on the street, electric cars are typically really good at hiding their speed, and most circuits compound that phenomenon. A little frame of reference would be good for semi-experienced trackday drivers who are getting used to an EV’s straight-line punch. After all, nobody likes gravel scattered across the track.

The Flush

Whelp, time to drop the lid on this unfortunately short edition of The Morning Dump. While today’s fairly sparse news cycle is a bit of a downer, all the three-pedal excitement of yesterday must’ve tuckered everyone out. In all honesty, it’s a good time for a moment of reflection. We might live in the most insane time to be into cars in living memory. We have fire-breathing manual transmission-equipped sports cars, electric cars so quick that launching one could bruise your occipital lobe, the ‘look ma, no hands!’ future of autonomous vehicles, a market shortage, digital wrenching guides, incredible in-car tech, better crash protection than ever before, and the stickiest street-legal tires in the history of the universe. It genuinely boggles the mind when you take a step back. With that in mind, I’d love to hear one thing you adore about today’s cars and one thing you’re looking forward to in cars of the future.

Lead photo credit: Stanford Racing

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10 Responses

  1. I just did a 380km trip in a country that I call home, but is new to me – and so is the language.
    I definitely adore the GPS navigation system.

    1. And I forgo what I look forward to: 3d printed metal coach building on skate platforms. If all goes well with Mankind this day will arrive, and it will be awesome!

  2. Having boosted to the stratosphere 3 and 4 cylinder engines with factory warranties is amazing. 400 hp from a 2ish liter 4? Incredible.

    Likewise, it’s evident the future of performance is electric. Motors are presently limited by how fast the battery can feed it juice. Having silly power levels is sometimes easier than derating. If the extended range pack enables faster discharging then there’s a solid marketing reason to bump the power. Giant batteries are the electric equivalent of a giant turbo.

  3. I like that we are at a point that hybrids regularly outperform their gas counterparts. I like that I don’t feel torn between efficiency and performance.

  4. “Adore” is kinda a big ask, but I definitely enjoy how much power everything has. Taking into account the difference in gross and net HP, you can get a stock Hyundai that will beat a lot of stock classic muscle cars.
    Still, you don’t go after a classic muscle car to keep it stock.

    1. I think that there will need to be a system for owners to select when the updates install and the ability to roll back to previous version if there is an issue.

      1. Tesla owners have the first portion of that already. When the major new update came out a few months ago, I heard of people delaying it indefinitely because they didn’t like how some buttons on the UI changed around and such

      2. that would be helpful. Sadly it may come down to certain regulatory requirements as far as certain data being displayed at all times for the ‘operator’ (drivers will become irrelevant in this dystopia)– or some other mechanism that forces automakers to refrain from fiddling with critical driving systems for the fun of it.

        I’m into humor and entertainment as much as the next guy, but tesla updating cars for gaming systems and fart modes are no fun if they also make changes to critical driver info.

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