Toyota goes drifting with Stanford’s Dynamic Design Lab

January 19th, 2021 by

Every year, almost 40,000 Americans lose their lives in automobile accidents, part of a grim toll that kills over 1.25 million people around the globe each year. Where those crashes are unavoidable, Toyota Safety can make the difference between someone coming home with a story to tell or not coming home at all.

But are all those crashes truly unavoidable? What if every driver could have the split-second decision-making, muscle-memory and reflexes of a trained racing driver during the moment before a crash seems imminent?

Those are the questions driving a recently-revealed partnership between researchers at the Toyota Research Institute and Stanford University’s Dynamic Design Lab. The result is something they’re calling the “Toyota Guardian” approach, and it may well spawn the next generation of automotive safety devices, allowing your Toyota to anticipate trouble and take evasive action automatically to avoid a collision with the skill and precision of a pro-level racing driver.

“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,” said Professor Chris Gerdes of Stanford University’s Dynamic Design Laboratory.  “Through this research, we have the opportunity to move these ideas much closer to saving lives on the road.”

The Toyota Research Institute has supported the Dynamic Design Lab’s automotive research for many years, with several of Toyota’s more recent safety innovations stemming from ideas developed through the project. The “Toyota Guardian” concept, for example, draws upon a paper published by Stanford researchers called: “Opening New Dimensions: Vehicle Motion Planning and Control using Brakes while Drifting.”

In experiments conducted prior to the publication of that the paper, Stanford researchers utilized an all-electric DeLorean sports car — similar to the one seen in the classic 1980s movie “Back to the Future” — they call MARTY. Utilizing today’s powerful supercomputers, researchers were able to turn MARTY into an automated, driverless drift car capable of executing the complicated braking, steering and throttle movements needed to “drift” around corners at high speed with the skill of a professional drift racer.

Piggybacking off that research, Toyota is now applying these ideas to concept and testbed vehicles, including a Toyota Supra GR. The goal is to use technology and ultra-fast Artificial Intelligence decision-making to have cars avoid crashes altogether. 

“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. “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 the technology is experimental now, the promise of building vehicles that can actually make millisecond-quick braking, cornering and acceleration decisions to help avoid crashes altogether is already proven though Toyota technologies like the pre-collision system with pedestrian detection and lane-tracing assist, which are already part of Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 utilized in Toyota vehicles brand wide. Just a few years from now, your Toyota could make a quick maneuver that could save your life.  

Here at Landers Toyota of Little Rock — part of the Landers Auto Group family of dealerships — we’re proud of the time, funds and energy Toyota has invested in the crucial work of helping keep Toyota drivers safer on the highway. Ready to experience the peace of mind of Toyota Safety? Stop in today at Landers Toyota of Little Rock for a test drive, or check out our full selection of 2021 Toyota models at our website right now.

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