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This Supra Can Drift by Itself, Artificial Intelligence Learns From Pro Drifters

Can you believe that it's almost been two decades since drifting started to become popular in the United States and other places around the world outside of Japan? In the beginning, companies were still looking at drivers involved in the sport as straight-up hooligans. Few people saw any good sides to the sport, outside of the fun factor, but the sport has grown, so has our understanding of the phenomenon.
Toyota Supra Automated Drifting 9 photos
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And this leads us to the present day, as companies have started realizing that they can gain valuable knowledge by working with professional drifters. And Toyota is really ahead of the game with this new project. You might remember something called the Martykhana, a cool little project developed by the bright people over at Stanford. A group of engineers taught Marty, their driverless DeLorean, to drift through an autocross course.

And the people over at Toyota Research Institute took notice of that project and decided to get involved. Toyota has been working with pro drifters in the United States and Japan for several years now. So TRI is engaging Toyota's engineering expertise in motorsports and advanced development, aiming to improve passenger vehicle safety on public roads.

Car crashes in the United States are the cause of nearly 40,000 fatalities a year out of a total of about 1.25 million fatalities worldwide, and Toyota has taken it upon itself to try and reduce that number to zero. That's not going to be easy by any standards, but the plans have been set in motion already. Gill Pratt, TRI CEO and Chief Scientist at Toyota Motor Corporation, explains.

“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. This is the essence of the Toyota Guardian approach.”

The video shows us a Rocket Bunny widebody kit Toyota Supra drifting in a closed course, under the supervision of a professional driver, but without any human inputs. We can see the vehicle changing gears, countersteering, and accelerating to maintain the sideways motion. We're confident that the results should considerably improve safety when driving on public roads, but we're also curious to see if we'll ever witness a drift battle between two fully autonomous vehicles.

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