Luxury automaker Jaguar Land Rover recently demonstrated off-road applications for its cutting-edge autonomous driving technologies. Unlike most remote-driving capabilities which are intended for relatively smooth and predictable city road conditions, these exciting advances also help drivers safely navigate uneven off-road terrains, a new frontier in remote-controlled automobile design.
According to Road and Track, "Jaguar-Land Rover's vision is to give you the 'ultimate safari experience' by allowing the driver to engage autonomous drive anywhere, be that on or off the paved roads. But the research project is not just about the car driving itself even in extreme off-road situations. Land Rover says it's about helping both the driven and autonomous car make their way safely through any terrain or driving situation."
The cutting-edge technologies include a Range Rover Sport that can be operated through a smartphone app. Standing outside the vehicle and walking beside it at speeds up to 4 miles per hour, the driver can visually assess the car's position within the landscape and traverse challenging off-road surfaces by braking, steering and accelerating remotely. While the app also represents a boon for city drivers, enabling them to squeeze out of tight parking spaces, for example, the app provides enhanced safety for off-roaders confronted with icy roads, streams, and other potentially dangerous conditions.
Another futuristic design advance, Jaguar Land Rover’s autonomous 'Multi-Point Turn' Range Rover Sport permits the car to turn 180 degrees, performing an often challenging three-point turn with precision. This capability could come in handy if a driver suddenly finds himself on a narrow track blocked by debris or other unexpected hazards. The new system can also assume gear selection and standard driving operations while calculating spatial relations between the car and its surroundings in order to avoid obstacles.
Other advances in the works include cameras and sensors designed to detect and adjust to changes in road textures and identify upcoming barriers, as well as communication systems to allow cars to warn nearby vehicles when they stop unexpectedly. Jaguar Land Rover asserts that the technologies "will help make real driving safer and more enjoyable. The same sensors and systems that will help an autonomous car make the right decisions, will assist the driver and enhance the experience to help prevent accidents. Autonomous car technologies will not take away the fun of driving.”
As Ars Technica reports, Jaguar Land Rover intends to build a fleet of 100 semi-autonomous cars by 2020. The carmaker plans to test drive the vehicles over a 41-mile stretch of road in the Midlands. When the cars hit the market, Jaguar Land Rover expects to offer drivers the option to navigate their cars themselves when they prefer a more traditional driving experience.