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Meet a DIY racing enthusiast who wants to change the world

Hands reaching for drone against blue sky

When Chris Anderson set out to build his first drone from a Lego Mindstorms kit at home with his kids, he never imagined it would lead to the creation of 3DRobotics, one of North America’s most prominent drone companies.

On this episode of No Parking, the former WIRED Magazine editor-in-chief and founder of 3DR, DIY Drones and DIY Robocars joined Bryan Salesky and me to unpack the world of do-it-yourself autonomous vehicles.

While we talked about convolutional neural networks, Arduino, Raspberry Pi, and how one would go about building an autonomous race car at home, the question that most resonated with me was, why?

“I want us [the community] to discover some technique, algorithm, approach that you, Bryan, hadn’t thought of,” he said. “That you realize is the world speaking to you as a way to change your own company.”

How can a community of amateur roboticists racing tiny homemade self-driving cars contribute to making our streets safer? For starters, lowering the barrier of entry to interact with self-driving cars in the real world and gamifying autonomous technology is an incredibly effective means of providing hands-on exposure to the next generation of self-driving engineers.

But Anderson isn’t looking to transform the self-driving industry through STEM education tools alone. Many of the automotive industry’s greatest inventions came from high-performance racing, from pushing the car to its limits in extreme, high-stakes environments. The same approach can be made for autonomous technology.

“We believe that by taking a different evolutionary path towards self-driving, one that involves nimbleness and aggressiveness, rather than slowness and safety; one that involves orders of magnitude more people; one that involves much higher risk, we might discover techniques that would lead to safer cars.”

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