About a year ago, the Toyota Research Institute (TRI) announced it was developing a special version of the GR Supra that was intended to drift all by itself. Fast forward to today, and it looks like the ‘A90’ has gotten pretty damn good at doing just that.
In the above video, we see the car autonomously slide around obstacles on track in what TRI describes as a “world first”. There was a human behind the wheel to keep an eye on things, but their only interaction with the Supra was to flick the ‘Operate’ toggle switch to set the sequence in motion.
It’s a proper drift-spec GR Supra with obnoxious aero, a hydraulic handbrake, an abundance of steering angle and some unspecified engine modifications. But those aren’t the most important tweaks - nope, those are the acronyms.
Are you ready? We have a dual antenna RTK-GNSS (real-time kinematic positioning - global navigation satellite system) aided INS (inertial navigation system), and an NMPC (nonlinear model predictive controllers) running an x86 processor. Data from all that stuff then informs the actions of the computer-controlled steering, throttle position, clutch engagement, sequential gearbox selection and individual wheel braking.
Working with the Dynamic Design Lab at Stanford University, Japanese tuning firm Greddy and drift legend Ken Gushi, TRI achieved its drifty goal at Thunderhill Raceway in California. The reason for all this? Because Toyota envisions a future in which a car might be able to quite literally drift its way out of trouble.
“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,” TRI Research Scientist Jonathan Goh said. TRI’s press release concludes: “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.”
So there you have it - autonomous drifting in the name of safety.