Toyota: Autonomous Cars Should Have Drifting Skills

Toyota: Autonomous Cars Should Have Drifting Skills

Self-driving cars sound boring, don’t they? They might provide a welcome chance to nap on the way to work or read a book on long trips. But the idea of letting the car drive brings up visions of thousands of calm, sedate rides. If computers make the safest driving choices for us, cars will be rolling lounges.

Yeah… about that.

Toyota researchers have, instead, developed autonomous driving technology capable of some of the most challenging and pulse-pounding moves in the toolkit of the professional race driver: An autonomous drifting car.

Drifting Hands-Free On a Race Track (For Now)

They’re testing it, fittingly, on a 2022 GR Supra modified with a GReddy wide-body kit and chassis and suspension tweaks normally found on Formula Drift racing cars.

“TRI researchers successfully programmed a vehicle to autonomously drift around obstacles on a closed track,” Toyota explains. The software, the company says, can “calculate a whole new trajectory every 20th of a second.”

Related: Self-Driving Cars – Everything You Need to Know

The system was developed in collaboration with professional drift racer Ken Gushi. It works, for now, on a closed and pre-mapped track. It drifts around obstacles the computers are aware of before the car ever detects them. But the long-term goal is to enable it to drift around unexpected obstacles.

The Long-Term Goal: Accident Avoidance

“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,” Toyota says.

Most crashes probably can’t be avoided with a deft loss of differential control. But, Toyota says, “in some extreme situations, drivers may need to make maneuvers that take their vehicle close to and, at times, beyond normal limits of handling.”

Autonomous driving systems might give regular drivers the reflexes of professionals to “amplify and augment a regular driver’s ability to respond to dangerous and extreme situations.”