Toyota Research Institute is aiming to develop an autonomous technology that can extreme maneuver its way out of danger like a professional race car driver. In a video clip released last week, Toyota shows its specially prepared Supra drifting itself around corners and obstacles on a closed course.
Toyota’s driver flips the autonomous switch on the Supra test car, takes his hands off the wheel, and lets the car get to work throwing itself into tire-screeching drifts around corners and planted obstacles. Toyota Research Institute (TRI) made the successful autonomous drift run on the West track at California’s Thunderhill Raceway.
They started the work a year ago in collaboration with Stanford University’s Dynamic Design Lab, which had previously worked on a self-drifting DeLorean .
“When faced with wet or slippery roads, professional drivers may choose to ‘drift’ the car through a turn, but most of us are not professional drivers,” explained TRI research scientist Jonathan Goh. “That’s why TRI is programming vehicles that can identify obstacles and autonomously drift around obstacles on a closed track.”
A passenger car equipped with such technology would be able to use controlled drifting as another tool to prevent a crash in scenarios such as skidding out in snow or black ice.
TRI’s algorithms activate and control drifting with the help of the computer-operated steering, throttle, clutch displacement, sequential transmission, and individual wheel braking equipped to the Supra research vehicle. The suspension, engine, transmission, and safety equipment have been upgraded close to Formula Drift spec in order to operate the experiment safely under controlled conditions and collect data.
Drifting on a closed 2-mile (3.2-km) stretch of track with defined obstacles is vastly different from doing so on a roadway with unidentified hazards and traffic, so don’t expect the next Toyota Camry to be packaged with available auto-drift assist. That is something the company will be working on.