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Video: Toyota Vehicle Autonomously Drifts Around Racecourse

Toyota's autonomous driving system can drift a sports car all the way around a track.


Toyota Research Institute's team of scientists and engineers have designed an autonomous driving system to drift a sports car on a racetrack. TRI says this is a world first. The team combined a deep knowledge of vehicle dynamics and control design to achieve the outcome. TRI’s Nonlinear Model Predictive Control (NMPC) approach enables the vehicle’s operational domain to the very limits of its performance. The idea behind this research is to further a street-going vehicle's autonomous driving ability to avoid accidents by navigating sudden obstacles or hazardous road conditions like black ice.

“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.”

Toyota says that this achievement brings TRI researchers closer to understanding the full spectrum of vehicle performance. “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,” said 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.”

Top of page image courtesy of Toyota.

John Goreham is a long-time New England Motor Press Association member and recovering engineer. John's interest in EVs goes back to 1990 when he designed the thermal control system for an EV battery as part of an academic team. After earning his mechanical engineering degree, John completed a marketing program at Northeastern University and worked with automotive component manufacturers, in the semiconductor industry, and in biotech. In addition to Torque News, John's work has appeared in print in dozens of American news outlets and he provides reviews to many vehicle shopping sites. You can follow John on TikTok @ToknCars, on Twitter, and view his credentials at Linkedin

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