Toyota aims to give ADAS the skills of a professional driver

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Researchers at the Toyota Research Institute (TRI) in the USA are conducting research into how to bring together the instincts of professional drivers and automated driving technology. Their stated goal is to design a new level of active safety technology for Toyota and other auto manufacturers to deploy on the road.

“Every day, there are deadly vehicle crashes that result from extreme situations where most drivers would need superhuman skills to avoid a collision,” said 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 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 that amplify human driving abilities and keep people safe.”

While most crashes occur in mundane situations, in other scenarios drivers may need to make maneuvers that take their vehicle close to and, at times, exceed normal limits of handling. When faced with wet or slippery roads for instance, professional drivers may choose to ‘drift’ the car through a turn.

“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,” explained Prof. Chris Gerdes of Stanford University’s Dynamic Design Lab. “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 the current project draws upon Stanford’s published paper, Opening New Dimensions: Vehicle Motion Planning and Control using Brakes while Drifting, in which researchers demonstrated advanced drifting on MARTY, an electrified, automated DeLorean.

Stanford’s experimental results produced a proof-of-concept architecture capable of controlling a rear-wheel drive vehicle in a drift using brakes, steering and propulsion. TRI is now applying this architecture to vehicle platforms, including the GR Supra.

It is also engaging Toyota’s engineering expertise in motorsports and advanced development, with Toyota Racing Development (TRD USA) providing technical and experiential know-how in motorsports and drifting. Separately, TRI is also working with TMC’s vehicle dynamics control team, based in Japan, to apply the drifting architecture for future Toyota vehicles.


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Lawrence has been covering engineering subjects – with a focus on motorsport technology – since 2007 and has edited and contributed to a variety of international titles. Currently, he oversees Automotive Powertrain Technology and Professional Motorsport World magazines as editor.

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