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February 3, 2022

Toyota Aims To Give Race Car Driver Instincts To Everyone (w/ Video)

Toyota’s researchers have managed to program a GR Supra to autonomously drift around obstacles on a closed track—a first that the automaker said provides a preview into how self-driving systems can complement human driving in hazardous conditions.

According to the Toyota Research Institute (TRI), the goal of the technology is to augment and amplify humans, not replace them. The goal, ultimately is to giving regular drivers the “instinctual reflexes of a professional race car driver.” All in the name of road safety.

Every year, car crashes result in nearly 1.35 million fatalities worldwide. While most crashes occur in mundane situations, in some extreme situations, drivers may need to make maneuvers that take their vehicle close to and, at times, beyond normal limits of handling.

“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,” said Jonathan Goh, TRI research scientist. “That’s why TRI is programming vehicles that can identify obstacles and autonomously drift around obstacles on a closed track.”

TRI said its software calculates a new trajectory for the vehicle every 20th of a second, allowing the vehicle to remain balanced as it drifted around objects and made turns. Given the complexity and difficulty of drifting, that's a major advance, said Goh.

With the support of automotive performance specialist GReddy and drift legend Ken Gushi, the self-drifting GR Supra had computer-controlled steering, throttle, braking, and transmission systems. Meanwhile, its suspension was modified to closely match those used in the Formula Drift series.

Toyota hopes to develop technology that can quickly react when a vehicle driven by a human finds itself in a dangerous situation such as driving over black ice or the sudden appearance of an object on the road. By augmenting it with self-driving technologies, drivers will be able to directly react to difficult situations like spinning.

Check it out in action:

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