Pikes Peak and the Robo-Audi

Announcer: Go behind the wheel and under the hood on everything automotive with High Speed Stuff from HowStuffWorks.com.

Scott Benjamin: Hello, everyone. Welcome to the podcast. This is Scott Benjamin. I'm the auto editor here at HowStuffWorks.com.

Ben Bowlin: And my name is Ben Bowlin. I am a video writer here at the same website. Imagine that, Scott.

Scott Benjamin: Crazy.

Ben Bowlin: Let's imagine that, if you will. Let's also imagine a future. Come with me to the future, briefly - not too far. Not like living on Mars future, but just a few years, okay? What do you think your car is gonna be like a few years from now?

Scott Benjamin: Oh, well, of course -

Ben Bowlin: - This isn't the main question.

Scott Benjamin: Oh.

Ben Bowlin: This is just the lead-in.

Scott Benjamin: Of course it'll be a flying car. It's gonna hover.

Ben Bowlin: Oh.

Scott Benjamin: It's gonna have a glass dome over it and we're all gonna dress like George Jetson. Food is gonna come in pill form. We could just swallow it and add water maybe if you're -

Ben Bowlin: - See? I knew you were gonna look at my notes and that's why I've set up this page of fake notes.

Scott Benjamin: Oh, very good, very good.

Ben Bowlin: But this is -

Scott Benjamin: - No, I don't know. For real?

Ben Bowlin: Yeah.

Scott Benjamin: What are cars gonna look like? That's a heck of question, huh?

Ben Bowlin: It's a tough question.

Scott Benjamin: Yeah, I guess so. Probably a lot easier to drive, maybe! I mean maybe they'll automate some things. Maybe they'll make things a little more streamlined.

Ben Bowlin: Yeah, man.

Scott Benjamin: But I don't know exactly what because things seem pretty easy right now.

Ben Bowlin: Well, you know, you're right, Scott. It is a difficult question to ask and I didn't mean to kinda give you a below-the-belt punch there. But because - I wanna tell you, I don't know the answer either. I doubt anyone knows. People have good ideas, and hopes, and dreams, and people have some really interesting, innovative projects such as the Volkswagen Group Automotive Innovation Laboratory, or VAIL. And what they are trying to do is imagine a future - bringing to life a future - wherein you could hop in your car and it would drive itself for you.

Scott Benjamin: We've seen this before in movies.

Ben Bowlin: Yes.

Scott Benjamin: Now, you know, just totally hands-free driving.

Ben Bowlin: Right.

Scott Benjamin: Sit back. Relax. Let the car take you.

Ben Bowlin: Um-hum.

Scott Benjamin: Is that what we're talking about?

Ben Bowlin: Yeah, that is what - that's kinda what we're talking about. Conceptually, it is similar and I know we've talked about this in earlier podcasts and we talked about some of the pros and cons of this as it was a hypothetical project. I think we mentioned briefly DARPA's Urban Challenge, right?

Scott Benjamin: Yeah.

Ben Bowlin: Okay. Check it out, man. There is an Audi TTS that needs no human to drive it. It drives itself.

Scott Benjamin: An Audi?

Ben Bowlin: An Audi.

Scott Benjamin: Okay.

Ben Bowlin: I mean, I'm just saying. Okay, it's -

Scott Benjamin: - So, it's in the DARPA Urban Challenge, then?

Ben Bowlin: Well, Scott, what is - I think what I really wanna focus on here with this idea is Pikes Peak. Do you remember that?

Scott Benjamin: Yeah.

Ben Bowlin: One of our greatest hits of recent podcast.

Scott Benjamin: Pikes Peak, yeah, sure, yeah. I love Pikes Peak.

Ben Bowlin: They're gonna send this Robo Audi onto Pikes Peak -

Scott Benjamin: - Really?

Ben Bowlin: - in the end of next year - in the end of 2010.

Scott Benjamin: Wait, wait. Okay, okay. So, we're used to seeing these robotic cars or automated cars - autonomous cars - driving on city streets, stopping at stoplights.

Ben Bowlin: Right.

Scott Benjamin: You know, making sure they don't bump bumpers as they navigate through, like, a city course, right?

Ben Bowlin: Yes, sir.

Scott Benjamin: Park in the driveway.

Ben Bowlin: Park and drive, yeah.

Scott Benjamin: Parallel park, whatever. One is going to be on Pikes Peak?

Ben Bowlin: Uphill, going for the record. Or not - I guess for the record in its class, but it's the first one to try this.

Scott Benjamin: Cool.

Ben Bowlin: But full speed.

Scott Benjamin: Very cool.

Ben Bowlin: Yeah.

Scott Benjamin: Very cool. They've tried that in the past, I think, but with slower-speed cars, right?

Ben Bowlin: Right.

Scott Benjamin: It's something not even close to race speed. I mean, like -

Ben Bowlin: - Right.

Scott Benjamin: - quarter speed, or whatever it was.

Ben Bowlin: Yeah.

Scott Benjamin: So, this one is gonna be all-out racing?

Ben Bowlin: Yes. Let me tell you a little bit about the people who are - I know it sounds crazy. I was skeptical, too. But let me tell you just a bit about the people who are involved in this VAIL project. Do you wanna hear about them?

Scott Benjamin: Yeah.

Ben Bowlin: Okay. So, first, we've got the ERL, the Volkswagen Group's Electronics Research Laboratory, and they've got a task with this. This is a group project, you know? Their converting the vehicle to drive by wire and they're trying to make sure that it is safe enough to have a reliable, autonomous drive with no safety driver - no human spotter sitting there behind the steering wheel.

Scott Benjamin: Oh. There's no backup, then, in the car?

Ben Bowlin: - No, you can see video of a guy sitting shotgun with a laptop poised, you know, a bit nervously as the car is doing - while it's spinning out.

Scott Benjamin: You know what? I've seen this. This is the one that's on YouTube.

Ben Bowlin: Yes.

Scott Benjamin: If I'm not mistaken, this is the one - this is the same car, right? The one that in the desert - or not the desert, on the Salt Flats -

Ben Bowlin: - Yep.

Scott Benjamin: - is, I guess, scrawling out the Audi rings -

Ben Bowlin: - Um-hum, exactly.

Scott Benjamin: - in the desert from - I mean, the Salt Flats. I keep saying desert. But that's the one that did the perfect rings in the -

Ben Bowlin: - And it has those three antenna-looking protrusions.

Scott Benjamin: I didn't see the antennas.

Ben Bowlin: Oh, okay.

Scott Benjamin: I guess I wasn't paying attention to it. But that's the same vehicle?

Ben Bowlin: I believe so, yeah.

Scott Benjamin: Oh, cool, okay.

Ben Bowlin: And I believe it is the same vehicle, but if it's not, they're building one - they must be building one especially for Pikes Peak. But I'm pretty sure. I'm, like, 90 percent sure they're the same the vehicle.

Scott Benjamin: Um-hum.

Ben Bowlin: So, the other people involved - Stanford University, they're Dynamics Design Lab, they're developing the software, or the controlled algorithms that basically program this vehicle to drive at the limits of handling. So, it's as if they figured out in quantitative terms, the absolute limit of the car's ability, you know, within a safety margin.

Scott Benjamin: Um-hum.

Ben Bowlin: And then also figured out a way to program it to perform at that ability, given the variable involved.

Scott Benjamin: Oh, that's - this is really interesting because I guess in the DARPA challenge, if something is going wrong, they know it right away and they can correct it -

Ben Bowlin: - Right.

Scott Benjamin: - within a matter of a foot or two, or even less maybe, maybe inches.

Ben Bowlin: - Sure.

Scott Benjamin: It seems like on Pikes Peak there's a lot of drifting. It's a gravel road for some of the course.

Ben Bowlin: Yep.

Scott Benjamin: Then, it's pavement. So, with the drifting involved, to me, it seems like it might decide that, "I'm out of control right here at this spot." When really, it's doing what it should be doing.

Ben Bowlin: Right, because that drift is part of the strategy.

Scott Benjamin: So, drifting is kinda an out-of-control slide - it's a controlled slide, I should say. But where does a car know that, "I've gone too far"? Maybe it's a sensor that determines where the back end is in relation to the front end, and if it starts to move around -

Ben Bowlin: - And there are definite sensors. I'll get into that soon.

Scott Benjamin: Oh, okay. Yep, I'm jumping ahead.

Ben Bowlin: No, no, no. We should jump all around. This really is strange to me, Scott, and it's exciting. The last people that are really pitching in, also with just their name - and you'll remember them when I say them; you'll recognize them, rather - Sun Microsystems.

Scott Benjamin: Um-hum.

Ben Bowlin: So, they're making the platform. They're building the hardware to let all these technologies run together and to make sure that this vehicle can actually work. So, I'll go into the specs of the vehicle real quick.

Scott Benjamin: Sure.

Ben Bowlin: I know you love the list of numbers.

Scott Benjamin: I do. Give me the full list.

Ben Bowlin: Okay. I'll be - I'll give you the full list, then. You asked for it.

Scott Benjamin: Yeah.

Ben Bowlin: So, it's an autonomous Audi TTS. Its nickname is Shelly, and it's named after Michelle - I'm sorry, Michelle; I may mispronounce your name - M-O-U-T-O-N, moo-tin, mow-tin?

Scott Benjamin: Moo-ton, maybe?

Ben Bowlin: Moo-ton?

Scott Benjamin: I don't know.

Ben Bowlin: Michelle M.

Scott Benjamin: Um-hum.

Ben Bowlin: A rally sport racer and female.

Scott Benjamin: She's - you know what? I know her.

Ben Bowlin: You know her.

Scott Benjamin: Yeah, she's the one who raced in the Audi Quattro and won, I believe, the year that she competed.

Ben Bowlin: - Yes, yep.

Scott Benjamin: That's what kinda gave the Quattro its street cred - it's credibility that, you know, this is a true, all-wheel drive, well, Quattro system and is unbeatable in that -

Ben Bowlin: - She's kinda a big deal.

Scott Benjamin: Yeah, she is. She's a big deal.

Ben Bowlin: So, is this vehicle. It is a 2009. Its engine: It's a 2.0 turbocharged, direct-injection, FSI. Its transmission is 6-speed. Now, here's something that I'm not too familiar with, Scott. It's 6-speed, but it's S-Tronic.

Scott Benjamin: Um-hum.

Ben Bowlin: What does that mean?

Scott Benjamin: Oh, it's Audi's version of - it's a 6-speed, but it's shifted electronically.

Ben Bowlin: Okay.

Scott Benjamin: We can do another podcast about that stuff.

Ben Bowlin: O kay, good.

Scott Benjamin: There's a whole bunch of them. They all have their own names for these systems.

Ben Bowlin: Okay. It gets pretty good miles per gallon, I guess. Well, when it's not racing up Pikes Peak, it gets 21 miles per gallon in the city and 29 on the highway. So, that's probably gonna change just given racing. And let's see. We can go into torque. We go into power. Let's skip some of that. Let's -

Scott Benjamin: - So, basically, it's a true - what type? It's an Audi TTS?

Ben Bowlin: Yeah, it's a true Audi.

Scott Benjamin: And okay. So, it's really unchanged. It's really just a control system. That's a standard Audi vehicle, right?

Ben Bowlin: - That's it. Yeah, it's a standard Audi vehicle with the control system.

Scott Benjamin: All right.

Ben Bowlin: So, it tops out at 155 miles per hour, 0 to 60 in just under five seconds.

Scott Benjamin: Oh, cool, okay. So, this thing doesn't look like a tank going up the road or anything like that?

Ben Bowlin: No, no, not at all.

Scott Benjamin: It's not a test - well, it is a test mule, I guess.

Ben Bowlin: Yeah.

Scott Benjamin: But it's very refined looking, right? It looks like the regular car.

Ben Bowlin: Yes.

Scott Benjamin: Because the one I saw in the Salt Flats - that one definitely looked just like a standard Audi. It didn't look like anything unusual -

Ben Bowlin: - Right.

Scott Benjamin: - other than the antennas and I'm sure there's a lot of gear inside.

Ben Bowlin: Yeah, there's gotta be a lot of gear - maybe, maybe not - taking up the entirety of the car because there was enough room, at least, for two people to sit in there. But you can tell this Audi apart from other Audis by looking at the top of the vehicle. There's a central antenna going up, like - you know, like a CB radio?

Scott Benjamin: Yeah.

Ben Bowlin: Or a Ham - not a Ham radio - CB radio.

Scott Benjamin: Yeah, yeah.

Ben Bowlin: And then, to the side - on either side - there are these gray, almost flattened, cylindrical objects that are also, from what I understand, antennas or sensors of some sort.

Scott Benjamin: Okay.

Ben Bowlin: But other than that, it looks completely normal.

Scott Benjamin: All right.

Ben Bowlin: It looks like a CB fan owns that car.

Scott Benjamin: All right. Well, I have a question for you.

Ben Bowlin: Yes?

Scott Benjamin: What about safety? We talked about - now, there are people lining this course.

Ben Bowlin: Yes.

Scott Benjamin: And here comes a car at race speed with no driver up the hill. How - what about safety? Do you know anything about, like, how it shuts down, or decides to shut down, or decides that something -? What if something is in its way? What if there's a rock slide -?

Ben Bowlin: - Yeah.

Scott Benjamin: - in between -? Now, I know that's unlikely, but -

Ben Bowlin: - Perfect question, great question.

Scott Benjamin: How do they shut it down?

Ben Bowlin: Well, okay. If - I'll read to you from one of the statements I have on this vehicle.

Scott Benjamin: Okay.

Ben Bowlin: In addition the redundant systems for vehicle control - and it has emergency shutdown system - this TTS also has a Solaris-based system running a real-time Java system that monitors the senors and actuators in the car. So, attached to this, there's a subsystem that can perform a vehicle shutdown if it determines conditions have become unsafe. That's a big "if" and what are the conditions, you know? What's the threshold? So, yes, it is possible in a rock slide, maybe somehow the sensors don't pick up something, and it continues to go.

Scott Benjamin: Well, that's probably a bad example - rock slide, because somebody is watching that course all the time.

Ben Bowlin: - Okay, maybe -

Scott Benjamin: But let's say a tree falls down, in between competitors - very unlikely.

Ben Bowlin: Right.

Scott Benjamin: But it's blocking the road.

Ben Bowlin: Possible.

Scott Benjamin: How does that car know not to smash into that tree like a human would know?

Ben Bowlin: So glad you asked, Scott.

Scott Benjamin: Oh, thank you.

Ben Bowlin: Because it does have a GPS and an inertial measurement unit to calculate its position. But of course, with the terrain changing that quickly, it probably couldn't pick it up. I'm just gonna assume because GPS, again, has to bounce off a lot of things to get to us.

Scott Benjamin: Sure.

Ben Bowlin: So, the vehicle has a telemetry system that can transmit all of it's parameters to a receiving station 20 miles away, and that can also shut down the vehicle remotely, or order the safety systems to engage and bring the car to a controlled stop. So, there still is, if you will, the capacity for somebody to be in a remote location watching it, basically, with some red, stop or slow down button.

Scott Benjamin: Okay, so a lot of in-car cameras watching what's going on.

Ben Bowlin: Um-hum.

Scott Benjamin: People on the course -

Ben Bowlin: - Yep.

Scott Benjamin: - strategic locations watching this thing.

Ben Bowlin: I like to call it the, "Oh, holy crap, watch out!" button.

Scott Benjamin: I have to believe that Audi is gonna have a thousand cameras on that course watching this thing go.

Ben Bowlin: Oh, yeah, definitely.

Scott Benjamin: I would think because this is - you know, this is ground-breaking.

Ben Bowlin: Yeah, oh, yeah.

Scott Benjamin: It's amazing.

Ben Bowlin: And it's so nuts that they're still using so many standard Audi parts.

Scott Benjamin: Also, what -? Okay, so, I understand that Audi is involved and I understand why they wanna do something like this. This is futuristic, kinda cool.

Ben Bowlin: Yeah.

Scott Benjamin: Is there another purpose to it? Is there another angle to this that we don't know about yet, or is there -?

Ben Bowlin: Yes.

Scott Benjamin: What's the possible, I guess, next step in something like this?

Ben Bowlin: Well, the benefit - of course, the short-term goal is to do the Pikes Peak hill climb. Long-terms goals, as stated by the people working on this project at VAIL, are they envision a reduction in the number of auto fatalities if this kinda technology can be put in place. They also envision less error-prone adjustment to changing traffic and weather conditions, which makes sense if you think about it. If - if - and that's a huge if - the sensors were able to work in concert - and, you know, we've talked about this problem before, you know?

Scott Benjamin: Um-hum.

Ben Bowlin: That kinda system works if everybody is doing it -

Scott Benjamin: - Yeah.

Ben Bowlin: - in a certain area. And then, also - and this is something that called out to maybe a little bit of the laziness in me - automatic execution of routine driving chores. Hunting for a parking spot - how easy would that be if you had sensors and the actuators? You could just hang out in the car. Maybe even, you could leave the car and it'll park itself.

Scott Benjamin: Really?

Ben Bowlin: Yeah.

Scott Benjamin: Oh, wait. Okay, wait. Wait. So, you're saying you could drive up to a restaurant -

Ben Bowlin: - Uh-huh.

Scott Benjamin: - let yourself and your family out of the car -

Ben Bowlin: - And tell it to park.

Scott Benjamin: - tell it to park and then you just head on inside. It parks itself, and then when you're done, you what - push a button and it comes back? Or you probably have to go find it somewhere because it's at sea?

Ben Bowlin: - And you have a remote that says, "Come back."

Scott Benjamin: That would be the rough part, I guess, is that it wouldn't come back, yeah.

Ben Bowlin: Because what if it parks, like, 20 blocks away?

Scott Benjamin: What if it just heads home?

Ben Bowlin: What if it -? Yeah, oh, gosh, so, it's kinda like when you have a dog that loves you, but doesn't quite get the commands.

Scott Benjamin: It doesn't understand, yes. "I'm going home where the food bowl is."

Ben Bowlin: I've had a dog like that. I've actually been that person a couple of times. So, yeah, that's disappointing.

Scott Benjamin: - No, I wondered. But that's interesting though to know that it has the possibility of just operating on its own. Whatever command you give it, if it's a simple command - like, maybe you like to get out - you don't wanna get out in your crowded garage.

Ben Bowlin: Right.

Scott Benjamin: You know, things are all around your vehicle.

Ben Bowlin: Um-hum.

Scott Benjamin: Maybe you could get out in the driveway, and just have it park itself in the garage, and then head in. I don't know. That's interesting the idea about parking, though. That's cool.

Ben Bowlin: Drop the kids off at school. Pick up - all it has to do is pull up the curb and people can put things in it.

Scott Benjamin: Oh, send it on its own to drop the kids off at school. Is that what you're saying?

Ben Bowlin: You know, we're assuming long-term, and that this would have to work very well for anybody to put their children. I mean, it's not -

Scott Benjamin: - Well, a car seat. You know, it's safe.

Ben Bowlin: I wish people could see that shrug that you just did.

Scott Benjamin: I would never do it, I don't think.

Ben Bowlin: Well, see, this is - and we should come clean with our listeners before we wrap up on this subject. Scott, this is something that you and I have talked about before with driverless cars. Now, I appreciate your slightly sarcastic shout-out to flying cars, which I still believe in. But I think I agree with you in our earlier conversations about the danger of having driverless cars when there are human drivers, and the dangers of the control or the reliability of the mechanisms.

Scott Benjamin: Yeah.

Ben Bowlin: But I really think - I mean, you saw the video. These guys have done their homework and these men and women working on this thing are - I think they've got a good thing going. This may be - this is on the fence about changing my mind.

Scott Benjamin: Well, it takes - I mean - okay. You know, what Pikes Peak is - is, like, almost twelve and a half miles.

Ben Bowlin: Yeah.

Scott Benjamin: It's 156 turns, like, something like 14,000 feet of elevation.

Ben Bowlin: Right.

Scott Benjamin: Intensely difficult for a driver to make this trip. You yourself said you wouldn't do it.

Ben Bowlin: I would no do it.

Scott Benjamin: Or you wouldn't drive up it fast.

Ben Bowlin: - I would not. I would not.

Scott Benjamin: I still laugh about that. Just the idea that this thing is gonna be traveling at race speed uphill, it shows you the kinda control that's involved in this thing.

Ben Bowlin: Um-hum.

Scott Benjamin: It's not parking itself in downtown Main Street - on Main Street, U.S.A.

Ben Bowlin: Right.

Scott Benjamin: It's racing in a highly-competitive, very difficult - on a very difficult racecourse. I just - I'm astonished by this. I think it's really, really cool.

Ben Bowlin: Yeah, we're gonna have to keep an eye on this to see how it does at the - into 2010.

Scott Benjamin: - Yeah, but I still hang onto the idea that, you know, if you have autonomous vehicles with other vehicles on the road that are not controlled by the same system, it is dangerous because you're gonna end up - there's gonna be conflict there.

Ben Bowlin: That's a good point. You know what? We should also - we should ask the listeners, of course, our favorite members of the show. What do you guys think about driverless cars? Do you think it's a good idea? Do you think it's a feasible idea - even better? And just to show you how much we love listener mail - I don't know, Scott. What do you think? Should we read some now?

Scott Benjamin: You know what? Before we do that -

Ben Bowlin: - Okay.

Scott Benjamin: You were close.

Ben Bowlin: I was close.

Scott Benjamin: Before we do that, I almost forgot this, but we had a piece of listener mail from a long time ago.

Ben Bowlin: Uh-huh.

Scott Benjamin: And we're talking back in June.

Ben Bowlin: June?

Scott Benjamin: Yeah, this goes back in June because there really wasn't any angle on this one until very recently when we got this news about the Audi. Garrett wrote in and said that he's been in a robotics class for all three years and junior high school. And his teacher - he says all his teacher can talk about is robotic cars and he wanted it explained why there's so much commotion about this. He thinks that it shouldn't be that hard, but you know, there's a ton of people who try it and don't make it. They fail, and he wondered why that was. I thought, "Well, that's interesting. We'll have to think about that for a topic." And now, thinking back -

Ben Bowlin: - The Audi popped up, yeah.

Scott Benjamin: - I think that this is a nice little tie-in, but it's several months later. It's just one of those cases where, you know, I was still thinking about and it finally came around, and we were able to get to it. So, I wanted to give Garrett some credit for putting the idea in our heads anyways. But -

Ben Bowlin: - Yeah, Garrett, Scott saved my skin on that one. I completely - you know, I have that printed out, too, but that is the question, and that's a very good question.

Scott Benjamin: Yeah.

Ben Bowlin: It doesn't seem technically impossible, you know?

Scott Benjamin: Um-hum.

Ben Bowlin: It's just the - it's almost the risk involved as much as the complexity.

Scott Benjamin: Yeah, true, true. All right, well, I think we're on to listener mail now. All right, I guess we should start this off by saying this is a correction.

Ben Bowlin: A correction?

Scott Benjamin: Another correction.

Ben Bowlin: All right.

Scott Benjamin: Now, remember - this - we'll make this kinda quick here because I'm still befuddled by the whole thing.

Ben Bowlin: Okay.

Scott Benjamin: It's a math problem. This goes back to the Bloodhound SSC car - the supersonic car that we talked about.

Ben Bowlin: Yeah, or possibly the world's fastest car.

Scott Benjamin: Yeah, yeah, possibly the world's fastest car. It has yet to be proven, but it looks like it's gonna be that way.

Ben Bowlin: Didn't we get a very polite, well-written e-mail a couple episodes back checking on the math?

Scott Benjamin: We did.

Ben Bowlin: Okay.

Scott Benjamin: We did and I believe that was one that said something like - it was from Evan.

Ben Bowlin: Yes.

Scott Benjamin: And Evan said that - well, anyways, he said that my time calculation must have been off. According to his math, he got over five seconds for the vehicle to travel 5,280 feet.

Ben Bowlin: That's right, yeah, yeah.

Scott Benjamin: At the speed that we were taking about, 3.6 seconds, it would have been something like 1,450 miles. Okay, I came on and said, "Well, I must have been mistaken because I'm a math dummy." And I don't really have much going in the math skills there, but the thing is, I am getting corrections to the correction now.

Ben Bowlin: Really?

Scott Benjamin: And I'm getting these - very smart people are sending me e-mails, Ben, and I don't know what to do with them because I've got math in front of me, and they're showing me their work, and I still don't quite get it. I've got several of these. I've got one from - hang on a second. I'll find the name here, but - oh, maybe not - anyways, not a name on this one, but the first one came in with no name. But they do show me the error of my way and say that, "Yeah, 3.6 seconds is right."

Ben Bowlin: Okay.

Scott Benjamin: Again, that's according to the Bloodhound SSC site, which is -

Ben Bowlin: - A correction to the correction.

Scott Benjamin: Yeah, I guess, if we're not getting even beyond that at this point.

Ben Bowlin: We're in the metacorrection at this point.

Scott Benjamin: Yeah, exactly. Yeah, then we got another one from - I won't read the names here, but I got another one. These are happening on the blog. So, it's kinda a back and forth.

Ben Bowlin: I see, yeah.

Scott Benjamin: And then finally, today, we got another one from Corey and Corey is an engineer. He's in Augusta and he says that - actually, his calculation comes out to 3.4 seconds.

Ben Bowlin: Hum.

Scott Benjamin: So, even faster, but - he's saying - and he kinda showed me why I was mistaken. This is probably the most clear version I've seen so far - the version from Corey. I don't know. I'm just - it's going back and forth with this, but I'm gonna stick with the 3.6 seconds. I'm looking at the math here from Corey, and I'm deciding that, you know, this is right. But then again, I looked at Evan's math and thought, "Eh, it could possible." It kinda depends on whether you - the feet - the foot marker for the mile.

Ben Bowlin: Um-hum.

Scott Benjamin: And some people are saying you need to ignore the feet and just go by time, and the others are saying, "No, the feet has something to do with it as well." So, there's this big mixup right now.

Ben Bowlin: I see.

Scott Benjamin: Sorry. I wish I had better information to give here.

Ben Bowlin: - No, that's -

Scott Benjamin: But this is - I will try to work through this and get a definite answer, but I'm assuming that Corey is right, and the Bloodhound SSC group is right. Because as Corey points out, he's gonna trust the math of the guys that are willing to strap a rocket to the rear end, light it, stay on the ground, and plan to survive.

Ben Bowlin: Yeah, I love -

Scott Benjamin: - That's his own words.

Ben Bowlin: That was my favorite line of that e-mail.

Scott Benjamin: Yeah. So, thanks, Corey, for writing that in, and we'll check into this math.

Ben Bowlin: And thanks as well to Evan who originally pointed this out, and thanks to all the other people who have written in as well. I guess that about does it for today, right, Scott?

Scott Benjamin: I think that's it.

Ben Bowlin: Yeah? And so here we are, confronting a brave new world, possibly with robotic drivers. What do you guys think? While you're there, writing us an e-mail, why not send a topic or a suggestion our way, or check out our blog? You can reach us, as always, at HighSpeedStuff@HowStuffWorks.com.

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