WHITLEY, England — Most development work on self-driving cars has been aimed at getting these vehicles to negotiate city streets, but now researchers at Jaguar Land Rover have begun testing their latest autonomous technology off road.
The British automaker — known for such all-terrain models as the 2016 Range Rover Sport, the 2016 Land Rover LR4 and the all-new 2017 Jaguar F-Pace SUV — has launched its Autonomous All-Terrain Driving Research Project aimed at making self-driving cars perform as well in the dirt as they do on pavement.
Jaguar Land Rover's technology uses a combination of camera, ultrasonic, radar and lidar (laser) sensors to give the vehicle a 360-degree view of its surroundings, allowing it to "see" terrain in three dimensions and also identify changes in surface characteristics.
"The key enabler for autonomous driving on any terrain is to give the car the ability to sense and predict the 3D path it is going to drive through," said Tony Harper, head of research for Jaguar Land Rover, in a statement. "This means being able to scan and analyze both the surface to be driven on, as well as any hazards above and to the sides of the path ahead."
In this video a Range Rover Sport senses changes in terrain and surface and then automatically adjusts its speed accordingly:
The 3D sensors also look for overhead obstacles, such as low-hanging branches or parking-garage barriers, to ensure that the route ahead is clear. For the ultimate in fine-tuning, the driver is able to program the system to take into account the height of cargo stored on the car's roof rack.
And to make the autonomous technology as effective as possible, Jaguar Land Rover engineers have used vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication systems to connect two Range Rover Sports together, so the SUVs are able to share information about location, wheel-slip, changes to suspension height and other data picked up by their sensors.
Said Harper: "In the future, a convoy of autonomous vehicles would use this information to automatically adjust their settings or even change their route to help them tackle the obstacle. Or for the ultimate safari experience, cars following in convoy would be told by the lead car where to slow down and stop for their passengers to take the best photographs."
Edmunds says: It makes sense that the Jaguar Land Rover, manufacturer of many famous off-road models, would invest in the development of all-terrain sensing technology, a feature that car shoppers will look forward to checking out.