Drifting is already cool, but autonomously drifting in the name of science is a hell of a lot cooler. The Toyota Research Institute has paired up with Stanford University to develop safer cars for regular drivers by getting its 2021 GR Supra to drift on its own. Let’s run you through why.
As the Toyota website puts it, “The engineers are conducting research into how to bring together the instincts of professional drivers and automated driving technology. Their goal is to design a new level of active safety technology and share it broadly so that Toyota and other auto manufacturers can deploy it on the road.”
In other words, professional drivers have spent their lives developing their reflexes. Those skills often have to do with reflexes and intuition, which are things that a computer still struggles to replicate — especially at high speeds or in challenging circumstances. Using those professional drivers to teach autonomous systems how to function better in situations where they need to make snap decisions.
It also looks sick as hell.
“Every day, there are deadly vehicle crashes that result from extreme situations where most drivers would need superhuman skills to avoid a collision,” Gill Pratt, TRI CEO and Chief Scientist at Toyota, said. “The reality is that every driver has vulnerabilities, and to avoid a crash, drivers often need to make manoeuvres that are beyond their abilities.”
Toyota does note that most driving doesn’t require those aforementioned superhuman skills, but it’s always good to plan for the extreme contingencies. Crashes at high highway speeds require fast reflexes. Right now, autonomous cars know how to handle those situations, but the whole goal now is to avoid them altogether.
You can read more about the study through the “Opening New Dimensions: Vehicle Motion Planning and Control using Brakes while Drifting” article published by Stanford University.