Toyota Demonstrates Autonomous Drifting Technology

Every carmaker is looking for ways to make the occupants of their vehicles more secure, and both through the way they are constructed and the high-tech driver assistance systems that are being created, cars have probably never been safer.

The Toyota Research Institute (TRI) recently claimed another step forward in this research, using a specially customised Supra – equipped with computer-controlled steering, throttle, clutch displacement, transmission and individual wheel braking – to demonstrate autonomous drifting technology.

Drifting may seem to be the domain of skilled, professional race drivers, but Toyota said that while most crashes occur in mundane situations, in some extreme situations, drivers may need to make maneuvers that take their vehicle close to and, at times, beyond normal limits of handling. The aim of this research is to develop technology that will augment a regular driver’s ability to respond to those extreme moments and use controlled, autonomous drifting to avoid accidents by navigating sudden obstacles or hazardous road conditions like black ice.

The company said its tech is able to calculate a whole new trajectory every 20th of a second to balance the car, and uses something called Nonlinear Model Predictive Control (NMPC) that can smoothly transition from dynamic drifting to grip driving.

“At TRI, our goal is to use advanced technologies that augment and amplify humans, not replace them,” said Avinash Balachandran, senior manager of TRI’s Human Centric Driving Research. “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.”


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