WATCH: This Toyota GR Supra can drift autonomously

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Toyota is a brand that’s synonymous with drifting, and unless you’ve been living under a rock, chances are you’ve heard about the Toyota AE86, AKA hachi-roku, and drift king Keiichi Tsuchiya. Despite its lack of flair and power, the former was praised for being a well-balanced vehicle. The latter, on the other hand, was known for his skills in gracefully sliding through tight hairpins and twisties.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • Where did TRI conduct the tests for the self-drifting GR Supra?

    TRI tested the specially customized Supra's autonomous drifting capabilities at Thunderhill Raceway Park in Northern California.
  • What is the goal of this demonstration?

    TRI says that the goal of this research exercise is to provide a glimpse into the future of safer mobility.
  • Folks from the Toyota Research Institute (TRI) have found a way to make the more powerful and obviously better-looking Toyota GR Supra perform drift maneuvers like its dated (but legendary) Corolla sibling around obstacles on a closed track — autonomously.

    self-drifting-supra

    In a video released by TRI on its official YouTube channel (you can watch it here), a specially customized Toyota GR Supra can be seen drifting through the two-mile “west track” at Thunderhill Raceway Park in Northern California — all by itself.

    “At TRI, our goal is to use advanced technologies that augment and amplify humans, not replace them. Through this project, we are expanding the region in which a car is controllable, with the goal of giving regular drivers the instinctual reflexes of a professional race car driver to be able to handle the most challenging emergencies and keep people safer on the road,” said TRI Human Centric Driving Research Senior Manager Avinash Balachandran.

    The purpose of this self-drifting GR Supra, however, is not to put on a show or win races. According to TRI, the aim of this demonstration is to provide a glimpse into the future of safer mobility for all.

    TRI researchers say that the idea behind this research is to utilize controlled, autonomous drifting to avoid accidents by navigating sudden obstacles or hazardous road conditions like black ice.

    A year ago, TRI and the Dynamic Design Lab at Stanford University teamed up to design a new level of active safety to help avoid crashes and prevent injuries and fatalities. With the support of automotive performance specialist GReddy and drift legend Ken Gushi, today’s achievement is another step in that journey.

    The technology developed by TRI uses Nonlinear Model Predictive Control (NMPC). By combining vehicle dynamics and control design insights from drifting-specific approaches, NMPC yields a control scheme that allows the vehicle to drive beyond the notions of traditional open-loop stability to where the vehicle is skidding but still controllable due to closed-loop driving control.

    This technology calculates a whole new trajectory every twentieth of a second to balance the car gracefully as it goes around the track.

    self-drifting-supra-1

    By building skills comparable to an expert driver, this technology can amplify and augment a regular driver’s ability to respond to dangerous and extreme situations, helping keep people safe on the road.

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

    This achievement brings the TRI team closer to understanding the full spectrum of vehicle performance.

    Furthermore, Toyota says that they “will continue to push the limits of vehicle safety technology by researching ever more effective ways for emerging safety technologies to amplify human capabilities on the road.”

    Photos from Toyota

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