Toyota develops autonomous drifting tech as a potential safety feature

What if your next car could help you drive like drifting master Ken Gushi? As far-fetched as that sounds, engineers at the Toyota Research Institute are pursuing this goal. On Wednesday, TRI announced it’s built a customized Supra sports car that, on a closed circuit, can autonomously drift around obstacles, a world-first according to the organization.

Drifting is cool and all, but who cares about a car that can slide around corners all by itself? What’s the big deal? Well, this is a potential safety feature. In the future, Toyota could use such technology to augment human drivers’ abilities, to provide autonomous control in critical, at-the-handling-limit situations. Say you’re starting to spin after hitting a patch of black ice. A professional driver might apply throttle and just enough steering angle to drift his or her vehicle to maintain control and prevent a crash, something that normal motorists would not have the skills to do.