Toyota has built an autonomous Supra drift car | Top Gear
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Toyota has built an autonomous Supra drift car

Stanford University teams up with Toyota’s Research Institute to create a self-drifting Supra

Published: 19 Jan 2021

Welcome to the best thing you’ll see this week. A Toyota Supra that can quite literally drift itself. The prototype, built by engineers from the Toyota Research Institute (TRI) and Stanford University’s ‘Dynamic Design Lab’, is supposed to help the carmaker “develop sophisticated control algorithms that amplify human driving abilities and keep people safe”.

The TRI points out that “while most crashes occur in mundane situations, in other situations drivers may need to make manoeuvres that take their vehicle close to and, at times, exceed normal limits of handling”.

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A car that can catch a slide with little to no human intervention would help when drivers “need to make manoeuvres that are beyond their abilities” in order to avoid a collision. In this case, catching a slide brought about by, for example, a driver taking evasive action, their own over-exuberance or poor road conditions.

When it’s up and running, the system will be another tool in the automotive industry’s ever-expanding armoury of driver-assistance systems. Toyota says its active safety technologies will be “share[ed] broadly so that Toyota and other auto manufacturers can deploy it on the road”.

Stanford’s Professor Chris Gerdes says since 2008 his team has “taken inspiration from human race car drivers in designing algorithms that enable automated vehicles to handle the most challenging emergencies”. To that end, Toyota Racing Development (TRD) has invested its expertise to the project in the form of “valuable technical and experiential know-how in motorsports and drifting”.

The project is based on a paper published by Stanford University called “Opening New Dimensions: Vehicle Motion Planning and Control using Brakes while Drifting”. The university’s researchers used a modified Delorean to show a “proof-of-concept architecture capable of controlling a rear-wheel drive vehicle in a drift using brakes, steering and propulsion”.

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