If you’re a little bored by the reports of autonomous car testing that’s strictly confined to pavement, the kind of research, development and testing that Jaguar Land Rover is doing will perk you up.
JLR invited a few select automotive journalists to Gaydon, England (check out Richard Truett’s report in Automotive News) to test drive a fleet of its vehicles designed to not only see and hear, but connect and measure the space above, around and beyond a vehicle – no matter what the terrain.
Alas, this reporter wasn’t among the few, but I’m greatly impressed by the reports of the technology all the same.
Jaguar Land Rover, Britain’s largest carmaker, tells journalists its goal is to offer drivers “autonomous driving on any terrain.”
Off-Road Connected Convoy
Clues as to what JLR had in store came from its world-first demonstration of an “Off-Road Connected Convoy.” Using car-to-car communication (dedicated short-range communications technology) helps vehicles in a group move together safely, as in an off-road safari. The SUV in the lead sends data in real-time on terrain, location, and suspension performance to the other vehicles in the group. This information helps the other drivers better tackle the route ahead.
3D Path Sensing
Another exciting part of the technology is 3D path sensing. With cameras, ultrasonic radar and LIDAR sensors, the vehicle is able to detect terrain changes, even in heavy snow, rain and mud. That’s due to the 360-degree world view that 3D path sensing provides.
Terrain-Based Speed Control
An off-road safari doesn’t always go according to plan. There are deep chasms, ruts, boulders and other hazards to contend with. Here’s where JLR’s terrain-based speed control comes in more than handy. A two-lens (stereo camera) mounted on the windshield ahead of the rearview mirror scans and reads the road ahead. It detects and identifies features such as hills, ditches, and surface smoothness and uses the data from steering, suspension, restraint system and other sensors to properly adjust the speed according to safe calculations.
Other technology JLR demonstrated to media in attendance included:
- Cooperative adaptive cruise control (JLR refers to it as C-ACC) — According to the company, C-ACC could improve traffic control on highways as the vehicles would be able to follow each other closely at highway speeds.
- Roadwork assist – Driving a vehicle in close quarters is no problem with roadwork assist. This technology measures the distance on both sides of a vehicle and steers itself through the hazard.
- Overhead clearance assist – A camera measures the distance available above the vehicle in a garage or where there are other obstacles – which may have equipment, luggage carriers or bike racks affixed – and warns the driver there’s not sufficient clearance overhead.
- Safe pull-away – This technology prevents the driver from hitting the back of another vehicle during low speeds. Should an object – a car, for example, be detected by the sensor and it also senses the driver applying the gas, the brakes are automatically applied.
When will Jaguar Land Rover vehicles have such autonomous technology? That’s not something company officials felt compelled to divulge.
But it is definitely something to watch out for. Gives another dimension to the concept of going off-road.