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We can’t reliably or safely implement true driverless cars yet. However, these cars can do some simple tasks in the world and even more complicated tasks on closed courses. Still, self-driving cars continue to struggle in the world. Teams from the University of Alabama and Politecnico di Milano formed an Indy Autonomous Challenge team. The Team PoliMOvE says they got a modified, driverless Indy car to hit a blistering 192.2 mph on a NASA runway at Kennedy Space Center.  

What was the driverless car speed record? 

The previous record was set by a Roborace vehicle in 2019 when it hit 175.41 mph sans driver. Needless to say, the modified Dallara AV-21—based on the current Indy Lights Dallara IL-15–sporting 30 percent more power than the previous record-setter, shattered the record. 

The Drive notes that we are unsure if the top speed was independently verified at this time. Although, I don’t will see a long cue of contenders trying to challenge the validity of the driverless car land speed record. While autonomous cars are a hot topic these days, finding anyone to care about autonomous racing is probably harder than setting the land speed record in the first place. 

This is cool and all, but does an autonomous car’s top speed actually matter?

Self-driving car speed record
Self-driving car speed record | PoliMOVE

I get that many people believe autonomous cars are cool, and all autonomous car news is exciting car to news to them. However, the hard part of designing autonomous cars seems to be having them avoid obstacles. Inversely, getting them to go in a straight line just isn’t that interesting. As much as I love to see the University of Alabama win at anything (Roll Damn Tide), I just can’t see the value in this. The other part that makes it silly is that land speed records are only really cool because of the mortal element. A car going really fast in a straight line with a computer behind the wheel just isn’t an interesting development. 

With this in mind, ​​Indy Autonomous Challenge’s stated goal of expediting vehicular autonomy is questionable, given the competition. How does programming a car to send it full speed in a straight line progress the autonomous car field any more than a brick on the throttle would? 

As The Drive points out, the only real value of this driverless car’s top-speed record is just to do it, which, admittedly, is pretty rad on its own. 

Why are we so obsessed with autonomous cars? 

People have decided that autonomous cars are not only a good idea but one that we should sprint toward with everything we have, hardly ever slowing down to look around and ask if it’s actually realistic. And with companies like Tesla piloting this raggedy craft, it’s no surprise that the half-cocked, semi-autonomous driving software is already being used on public roads. 

Like most things Tesla’s CEO bleats endlessly about on the internet, the idea sounds nice in theory but often turns out very differently or even not at all, in practice. The so-called “Full Self-Driving” mode found on some newer model Teslas has caused dozens of crashes, some of which even ended in death. All the while, Elon Musk continues to pedal this technology that is either dangerously buggy or so easy to misuse as to be effectually broken. 

Despite the shaky future of autonomous driving, this speed record was a harmless bit of fun and engineering, bringing yet another title to the University of Alabama. Roll Tide.



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