► This Toyota Supra drifts itself
► A joint project from the TRI and Stanford University
► Should improve driver assistance tech, eventually
Toyota has partnered with Stanford University in America to create an autonomous drifting Toyota Supra to showcase and develop its advanced driver assistance features.
The prototype can hold a respectable slide without driver intervention and was jointly-developed between Stanford University’s Dynamic Design Lab, which created the self-drifting Delorean DMC-12 in late 2019, and Toyota’s Research Institute (TRI).
Toyota Racing Development was said to play a part in making the widebody GR Supra into a drift machine, though no technical upgrade details were divulged.
More than just a showy boast of Toyota’s programming power, the self-drifting Supra was designed to morph the handling instincts of professional drivers and automated driving tech. The goal is to use the learnings from this study to further develop Toyota’s active driver assistance features to avoid crashes.
'What if every driver who ran into trouble had the instinctive reflexes of a professional race car driver and the calculated foresight of a supercomputer to avoid a crash?' the Toyota Research Institute asked.
Stanford University’s involvement brings the tech from its drifting Delorean experiment to the GR Supra, which is capable of controlling the rear-wheel-drive sports car’s brakes, steering and acceleration to produce a controlled drift.
Toyota notes that while most crashes occur in mundane situations, other scenarios can involve manoeuvres that exceed the 'normal limits of handling'. In those circumstances, Toyota wants to develop a car that can catch a slide with little to no driver intervention – which is the reasoning behind the self-drifting prototype.
'The reality is that every driver has vulnerabilities, and to avoid a crash, drivers often need to make manoeuvres that are beyond their abilities,' said Toyota Motor Corporation chief scientist Gill Pratt.
'Through this project, TRI will learn from some of the most skilled drivers in the world to develop sophisticated control algorithms that amplify human driving abilities and keep people safe.'
Toyota hasn’t said how close the technology is to finding its way into its production cars, though insists the tech will be 'shared so broadly that Toyota and other auto manufacturers can deploy it on the road.'