• This Self-Driving Toyota Supra Drift Car Aims For a Safer Future

Toyota’s idea of autonomous driving doesn’t ditch the driver - instead, it aims to make him better

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We’re all familiar with Toyota’s TRD (Toyota Racing Development). Other than looking to squeeze the best performance out of its cars for off-road or track use, the Japanese carmaker is also running TRI.

TRI stands for Toyota Research Institute, a division founded in 2016 which allows the Japanese brand to channel its efforts on making cars a safer place. Within TRI, Toyota is developing the Guardian, an automated safety system that learns how to spot a dangerous situation and react in due time. Right now, this advanced form of AI is learning how to drift a Supra.

This Self-Driving Toyota Supra Drift Car Aims For a Safer Future Exterior
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"Toyota Guardian is being developed to amplify human control of the vehicle, not replace it. With Toyota Guardian, the driver is meant to be in control of the car at all times, except those cases where Toyota Guardian anticipates or identifies a pending incident and employs a corrective response in coordination with driver input."

Essentially, Guardian mixes both worlds: the strengths of a computer and those of a human being. It’s inspired by how modern fighter jets are flown, where a pilot doesn’t fly the plane directly and instead relies on a computer and complicated algorithms that adjust various parameters thousands of times every second to keep the aircraft stable and in a safe-to-fly state. Similarly, Guardian isn’t turning on or off the human input or the machine input at a given time. Instead, it blends both as seamlessly as possible.

This Self-Driving Toyota Supra Drift Car Aims For a Safer Future Exterior
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TRI’s latest feat was achieved through a partnership with Stanford’s Dynamic Design Lab. In brief, researchers wanted to see if Guardian can mix automated driving tech with the instincts and reactions of a pro driver. The aim? To create a new level of active safety, one than can not only slam the brakes or steer the car back to its lane, but also chip in with evasive maneuvers that most drivers simply aren’t capable of performing.

"The reality is that every driver has vulnerabilities, and to avoid a crash, drivers often need to make maneuvers 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 than amplify human driving ability and keep people safe. This is the essence of the Toyota Guardian approach."

This Self-Driving Toyota Supra Drift Car Aims For a Safer Future Exterior
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Through TRI, Toyota is now putting this idea in practice with a GR Supra, its rear-wheel-drive sports car. Think of it like this: you’re driving on a wet road and suddenly an oncoming car leaves its lane and is heading straight to the car you’re driving. Braking hard won’t solve the problem, as it will only slow you down. Evasive action is needed, but you’re not Ken Block.

In theory, Guardian should be able to take control, steer just enough to avoid the impact (without throwing the car in a tree or ditch) but also apply counter-inputs to a potential skid, then bring the car safely on to its lane, from where you can continue the journey. If you haven’t peed your pants, that is.

This Self-Driving Toyota Supra Drift Car Aims For a Safer Future Exterior
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As we said, Guardian is still learning at this point. However, looking at the video below, it’s safe to utter that it’s doing a pretty good job in keeping the Supra balanced and composed while powersliding. And if this is the future of car safety, we’re all in.

Tudor Rus
Tudor Rus
Assistant Content Manager - Automotive Expert - tudor@topspeed.com
Tudor’s first encounter with cars took place when he was only a child. Back then, his father brought home a Trabant 601 Kombi and a few years later, a Wartburg 353. At that time, he was too young to know how they worked and way too young to drive them, but he could see one thing – each of them had a different ethos and their own unique personality. As time went on, he started seeing that in other cars as well, and his love for the automobile was born.  Read full bio
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