The racer’s edge, interpreted as a digital road map for drivers

Great racing drivers aren’t born, they’re made, the product of unshakeable personal focus and technical excellence gained by years of training and practice. It’s a learning curve that can’t be made any less sharp. For ordinary drivers, the kind who can go through a lifetime of motoring without getting paid or saluted for doing it, the kind of skills that racers possess have usually been unattainable. Only now, Toyota thinks it’s discovered a training tool. In cooperation with Stanford University in California, Toyota is gradually developing a list of algorithms that could be used to program driver-assistance technologies in future cars.

Stanford researchers have been putting professional drivers in a DeLorean DMC-12, of all things, modified for drifting and data acquisition. Using the drivers’ reactions in the DeLorean, which the research team has named MARTY, Stanford has been able to write algorithms that could, in both theory and practice, allow for autonomous vehicle reactions to sudden direction changes and the like, using a database gleaned from the drivers’ responses at the wheel. One such algorithm has allowed control of a rear-drive vehicle in a drift situation. Toyota has joined to adapt this collision-avoidance architecture to vehicles in its own fleet, such as the GR Supra. Toyota Racing Development is handling the bulk of the work with Stanford. Toyota has the stated goal of reducing the world’s 1.25 million annual traffic fatalities to zero.

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