How autonomous drifting technology can save you on the road

“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?”

Researchers at Toyota Research Institute (TRI) are working with Stanford’s Dynamic Design Lab to make this vision come true as they investigate how to bring together the instinctive reflexes of professional drivers and automated driving technology with artificial intelligence algorithms. 

Toyota Autonomous Drift Tech

Using a Toyota GR Supra, the TRI team is learning from some of the most skilled drivers in the world to develop sophisticated vehicle control algorithms.

The project’s goal is to design a new level of active safety technology for the Toyota Guardian™ approach of amplifying human driving abilities to help keep people safe, so that Toyota and other auto manufacturers can deploy it on the road. 


Drifting around obstacles 

TRI researchers recently successfully programmed a vehicle to autonomously drift around obstacles on a closed track — a world first. “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,” says Jonathan Goh, TRI research scientist. “That’s why TRI is programming vehicles that can identify obstacles and autonomously drift around obstacles on a closed track.” 

Every year, car crashes result in nearly 1.25 million fatalities worldwide. Toyota’s goal is to reduce that number to zero. While most crashes occur in mundane situations, in others, drivers may need to make moves that take their vehicle close to, and at times exceed, normal limits of handling. 

Human driving amplified  

“There are deadly vehicle crashes that result from extreme situations where most drivers would need super-human skills to avoid a collision,” says Gill Pratt, TRI CEO and Chief Scientist at Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC). “The reality is that every driver has vulnerabilities, and to avoid a crash, drivers often need to make manoeuvres that are beyond their abilities. 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. This is the essence of the Toyota Guardian™ approach.” 

How autonomous drifting technology can save you on the road

Saving lives on the road 

“Since 2008, our lab has taken inspiration from human race car drivers in designing algorithms that enable automated vehicles to handle the most challenging emergencies,” says Professor Chris Gerdes of Dynamic Design Laboratory. “Through this research we have the opportunity to move these ideas much closer to saving lives on the road.” 

 TRI has supported the Dynamic Design Lab’s research for many years and is also engaging Toyota’s engineering expertise in motorsports and advanced development. Toyota Racing Development in the United States is providing valuable technical and experiential know-how in motorsports and drifting. Separately, TRI is also working with Toyota Motor Corporation’s Vehicle Dynamics Control Team based in Japan, to apply the drifting architecture for future Toyota vehicles.