New Toyota Research Institute Project Infuses Safety Technology with Professional Driving Skills

Talk about a smart car. Toyota engineers are hard at work infusing a professional race car driver’s instincts and reflexes with the foresight of a super computer into active safety technology. Toyota’s goal is to enhance roadway safety by combining autonomous vehicle technology with AI algorithms inspired by the skillsets of a professional driver. Engineers and team members at Toyota Research Institute (TRI) are working with Stanford’s Dynamic Design Lab to make this a reality.

Racing & Algorithms

Although some crashes occur through no driver error, others require split-second thinking and action from drivers. This project hopes to replicate a professional driver’s response in a specific situation. One example cited by Toyota is how to react on a turn when roads are wet and slippery. In such instances, professional drivers may choose to “drift” the car through a turn.

“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, Toyota Research Institute 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.”

“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,” added 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.”

Future Applications

Toyota says their goal is to design a new level of active safety technology and share it broadly so that other auto manufacturers can deploy it on the road. TRI is also working with Toyota Motor Corporation’s Vehicle Dynamics Control Team – based in Japan – to apply the drifting architecture for future Toyota vehicles.