Future Range Rovers, Land Rovers and Jaguars could read off-road surface changes, sense bumpy terrain and connect in off-road convoys
Matt Burt
12 July 2016

Jaguar Land Rover is working on a raft of technology that could enable its future production cars to drive autonomously off-road as well as on-road.

The research project aims to make JLR’s self-driving cars viable in a wide range of  on- and off-road driving environments and conditions.

To enable autonomous all-terrain capability, JLR is working on new sensing technologies to provide the high levels of artificial intelligence required for the car to plan the route it should take.

New surface identification and 3D path sensing systems use camera, ultrasonic, radar and lidar sensors to give the car a 360-degree view of the world around it.

JLR says the combined power of the sensors is so advanced that the car could determine road surface characteristics, down to the width of a tyre, even in rain and falling snow, to plan its route.

Tony Harper, head of research for JLR, said: “We don’t want to limit future highly automated and fully autonomous technologies to tarmac. When the driver turns off the road, we want this support and assistance to continue.

“In the future, if you enjoy the benefits of autonomous lane keeping on a motorway at the start of your journey, we want to ensure you can use this all the way to your destination, even if this is via a rough track or gravel road.

“So whether it’s a road under construction with cones and a contraflow, a snow-covered road in the mountains or a muddy forest track, this advanced capability would be available to both the driver and the autonomous car, with the driver able to let the car take control if they were unsure how best to tackle an obstacle or hazard ahead.”

Ultrasonic sensors can identify surface conditions by scanning up to five metres ahead of the car, so the settings of JLR’s Terrain Response system could be automatically changed before the car drives from one surface to another. This will optimise all-terrain performance without loss of momentum or control.   

To complete the 3D path, branches overhanging a track, or a car park overhead barrier would also need to be identified to determine if the route ahead is clear.

Harper said: “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.

“This means being able to scan and analyse both the surface to be driven on, as well as any hazards above and to the sides of the path ahead. This might include car park barriers, tree roots and boulders or overhanging branches, as well as the materials and topography to be driven on.”

Overhead Clearance Assist uses stereo camera technology to scan ahead for overhead obstructions. The driver programmes the system with the vehicle’s height, which can include roof boxes or bicycles, and the car will warn the driver with a simple message in the infotainment touchscreen if there is insufficient clearance.

Another system being researched is called terrain-based speed adaption (TBSA). It  uses cameras to sense bumpy terrain including uneven and undulating surfaces, potholes or standing water. It predicts the potential impact of these surfaces on the car’s ride and automatically adjusts speed to keep passengers comfortable.

JLR is also working on Off-Road Connected Convoy, a system that links vehicles together using Dedicated Short Range Communications technology.

The system shares information including vehicle location, wheel-slip, changes to suspension height and wheel articulation, as well as All-Terrain Progress Control (ATPC) and Terrain Response settings instantly between vehicles.

The manufacturer has successfully demonstrated the so-called vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications system by connecting two Range Rover Sports together.

Harper said: “This V2V communications system can seamlessly link a convoy of vehicles in any off-road environment. If a vehicle has stopped, other vehicles in the convoy will be alerted – if the wheels drop into a hole, or perhaps slip on a difficult boulder, this information is transmitted to all of the other vehicles.

“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.”

JLR hasn’t stated when it anticipates the new systems could be mature enough to bring to market on its production vehicles. Last summer the company revealed technology to allow drivers to control their cars via a smartphone app.

Our Verdict

Range Rover Sport

The Range Rover Sport offers just the right dynamic twist on the well trodden SUV formula

Join the debate

Comments
5

12 July 2016
It's all very exciting, but will it be able to recognise the zig-zags in front of primary schools and prevent the vehicle being parked there? The current incumbents of SUV driving responsibility haven't seemed to master that one.

12 July 2016
lol. Very good.

Interesting tech and clearly the next generation of autonomous development.... still don't want it on any of my vehicles though!

 

 

It's all about the twisties........

12 July 2016
A complete and utter waste of time and money on a pointless and joy-sapping project, but clever nonetheless .

12 July 2016
I can understand why JLR need to develop this technology but not sure I understand why any customers would ever want to use it. How many customers would actually ever find themselves in need to venture in to this sort of extreme off road driving situation unless it is for recreation use and then isn’t the whole point to enjoy the challenge of personally mastering the landscape and the vehicle?

12 July 2016
JLR showcase all this great tech but meanwhile back in production their adaptive cruise control is 2 generations old and their touchscreens like a 1990s cashpoint. Come on JLR, please actually improve the cars we can buy.

 

 

 

Add your comment

Log in or register to post comments

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • Volvo V90
    First Drive
    19 October 2017
    The Volvo V90 is a big estate ploughing its own furrow. We’re about to see if it is refreshing or misguided
  • Kia Stonic
    First Drive
    18 October 2017
    Handsome entrant into the bulging small crossover market has a strong engine and agile handling, but isn’t as comfortable or complete as rivals
  • Hyundai Kona
    First Drive
    18 October 2017
    Hyundai's funky-looking Kona crossover with a peppy three-cylinder engine makes all the right noises for the car to be a success in a crowded segment
  • Citroën C3 Aircross
    First Drive
    17 October 2017
    The Citroen C3 Aircross has got funky looks and a charming interior, but it's another small SUV, and another dynamic miss. Numb steering is just one thing keeping it from class best
  • Skoda-Karoq 2.0 TDI 4x4
    First Drive
    16 October 2017
    Diesel version of Skoda’s junior SUV is unobtrusive and undemanding, but we’d still go for the silkier petrol version of the Karoq