What does drifting — i.e., the artof driving sideways around corners with smoke billowing from the tires— have to do with the future of self-driving cars? It's ahead-scratcher, but Toyota has an answer in the form of a self-drifting Supra.
In what Toyota Research Institute (TRI) saysis "a world first," a Toyota Supra programmed with autonomous driftingcapability successfully navigated a portion of the West track at California'sThunderhill Raceway while simultaneously avoiding obstacles on the course.
In the hands of an experienced driver,drifting can be fun. Anyone who grew up where it snows, or has the fortune ofdriving a rear-drive vehicle or one with a handbrake between the seats, knowswhat a blast drifting is when it's done right.
So what's the deal with Toyota ResearchInstitute (TRI) building a Supra that can drift autonomously? That doesn'tsound like fun. But it is kind of cool. And there is a method behind theseeming madness.
Toyota worked with legendary drifter KenGushi, performance tuner GReddy, and the Dynamic Design Lab at StanfordUniversity to create the self-drifting Supra. TRI says it modified the Supra'smechanical components to simulate the specifications of a Formula Drift car.Further customization gave it computer-controlled steering, throttle,sequential transmission shifting and individual wheel braking. Using anonlinear model predictive control approach, TRI says it could apply the skillof a professional driver through autonomous driving technology programmed tooperate beyond the point of tire saturation.
Say what, now? That's just engineer-speakmeaning the Supra could autonomously skid in a controlled manner.