Toyota AI drifts for safety, Chevy Spark is dead, Batman’s electric track toy?

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Toyota and Stanford want this drifting AI to save your life

Intake: For the first time, the Toyota Research Institute (TRI) and Stanford University have created a vehicle that can autonomously evade obstacles by drifting around them. The video below reveals the team’s tester Supra ripping off video game–like moves around a series of barriers set up in a closed environment at California’s Thunderhill Raceway. TRI’s algorithmic legwork aims to one day make pros out of everyday Joes when faced with sudden obstacles or traction loss. “Through this project, we are expanding the region in which a car is controllable, with the goal of giving regular drivers the instinctual reflexes of a professional race car driver to be able to handle the most challenging emergencies and keep people safer on the road,” says TRI’s senior manager of Human Centric Driving Research, Avinash Balachandran.

Exhaust: It may look like fun and games on a closed course, but the tire smoke hides a significant step forward for autonomous driving. Toyota’s not simply trying to mimic the behavior of the average driver; it’s reinventing the concept of an on-demand traction-control system. Imagine if your car supplied the professional-grade crash-avoidance reflexes you lack, or recovered a potentially disastrous skid with all the dexterity of a pro drifter? Toyota is putting big money and time into this deeply complex development process, and we applaud them for it. Want more of the nitty-gritty techy details? Head over here

Goodwood to champion the Masterminds of Motorsport

Drew Gibson / Goodwood

Intake: The 2022 Goodwood Festival of Speed’s theme is “The Innovators—Masterminds of Motorsport.” Held between June 23 and 26 in Sussex, U.K., the three-day event will “celebrate the technical landmarks that have seen the racing automobile develop from crude behemoth to space-age projectile.” Head honcho is the Duke of Richmond, who says:

“This year’s Festival theme allows us to celebrate some of the greatest achievements in history, while also highlighting the event’s evolving focus on future technology. Just as race-inspired innovations such as four-valve engines, monocoque chassis, and turbocharging have shaped the past and present of the cars we drive in the real world, so electrification, autonomy, and other new technologies— the development of which is accelerated by the white heat of competition—will have a profound effect on the future of personal mobility. The Festival of Speed is the only place in the world to bring all these stories together in one place, celebrating the past, present, and future in a uniquely immersive, dynamic way.”

Tickets are available now and discounted before April 1.

Exhaust: This theme sounds like a recipe for success, especially if it includes such ingredients as the Brabham BT46 Fan Car or the six-wheeled Tyrell P34. What innovators would you like to see take to the famous Goodwood Hill?

Chevy’s cheapest car reportedly disappearing this summer

2021 Chevrolet Spark ACTIV front three quarter
2021 Chevrolet Spark ACTIV. That last word translates to “rugged-looking dark plastic bits.” Chevrolet | Andrew Trahan Photography LLC

Intake: Another budget-friendly car is nearing the end of its life. As a Chevy spokesperson confirmed to us this morning, the Chevrolet Spark, the bowtie brand’s smallest and most affordable model, will be discontinued after this August. The tiny runabout features a 94-horse, 1.4-liter Ecotec four-cylinder engine and either a five-speed manual transmission or a two-step CVT automatic. The Spark’s base MSRP is just $14,990 including destination, and even heavily optioned models don’t break the $23K mark. We’ve reached out to Chevy for confirmation that this report is true and will update as soon as we hear back.

ExhaustIf the Spark is indeed about to be extinguished, we wouldn’t be surprised. It’s no secret that low-cost hatchbacks haven’t really sold in volume over the past few years, as folks flock towards crossovers, lengthy financing requirements be damned. Our only hope is that as GM continues to throw its chips into electrification, perhaps one day we’ll see an EV as compact and urban friendly as the Spark. Don’t hold your breath.

IndyCar’s Chilton signs for quirky McMurty

McMurty Automotive Max Chilton
McMurty Automotive

Intake: Max Chilton hasn’t yet secured a seat for IndyCar in 2022, but he will be powering ahead as the head development driver for McMurty Automotive. The small British firm’s Spéirling is an unusual all-electric track car which features fan-assisted ground-effect to suck it to any circuit. With a full carbon-fiber monocoque, carbon bodywork, and multi-link suspension, the Spéirling has been designed without reference to any racing rule books. Powered by a 60-kWh battery and weighing less than 2200 pounds, the car supposedly has a power-to-weight ratio of 1:1, can accelerate from 0 to 186 mph in under nine seconds, and has a top speed over 200 mph. What’s more, it can be driven for up to 60 miles flat-chat, depending on the circuit. “It’s a huge honor to be given the opportunity to become head development driver for McMurty. The company is really reaching new heights in the performance EV world,” says Chilton.

Exhaust: McMurty looks to be leading the charge on electric track toys. Signing a former Formula 1 driver to fine tune the Spéirling can only add to its credibility.

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