Jaguar Land Rover Project Vector: JLR's urban six-seater EV pod is here

Published: 18 February 2020

► Project Vector EV unveiled
► It’s an autonomous platform
► Designed for future urban use 

Do not adjust your sets: this is the future of urban transport, according to Jaguar Land Rover (JLR). Project Vector shows how the British car maker is readying itself for a future where the robots take over – and where autonomous pods like this could be roaming our streets.

This could be a dystopian future, or a welcome move, depending on your perspective. But JLR’s Project Vector concept car is designed to flex according to user need – so the electric car skateboard architecture could accommodate the body of a private car, a shared urban/Uber-like minibus or a last-mile delivery van. It stretches the brand into spaces hitherto unimaginable.

It’s not all pie-in-the-sky, either: pods very much like this will be on trial on Warwickshire roads from autumn 2021, as engineers test the science behind the theory. It’s likely to be used as a shuttle to and from the Warwick Univeristy campus where the six-seater is being developed, deployed as ‘an affordable, effective Level 4 autonomous car’ (meaning that it can drive itself for long chunks of time with no driver intervention.

Level 1-5: what the different autonomous car levels mean

JLR Project Vector: ready for an autonomous future

There’s a sense of urgency about Project Vector. JLR is a company best known for expensive, upmarket and premium cars – and especially the hordes of heavy, gas-guzzling SUVs from the Land Rover stable (and, increasingly now, Jaguar’s too).

It needs to be ready for the automotive revolution underway – and Project Vector is one of the most tangible signs yet that it must prepare for a future where highly connected, all-electric self-driving cars might soar in popularity.

It’s just over four metres long, or around the size of a contemporary supermini, yet the new, bespoke skateboard electric vehicle (EV) platform maximises the space inside for limbs and loads with interior room of a limousine 5m long, according to engineers. Tellingly, the interior still has a steering wheel in this iteration, suggesting that JLR’s futurologists haven’t quite won the battle yet (see interior below).

Our guide: the best electric cars and EVs

Jaguar Land Rover Project Vector interior: the driverless pod has a steering wheel!

It’s a highly configurable cabin, with the seats able to slide back and forth, and rearrange for different use case scenarios. They can swivel for office mode, remove for load-lugging and – we suspect – even turn into beds for the full hostel effect. 

Project Vector has been borne from JLR’s Destination Zero programme, designed to prepare the company for ‘an autonomous, electric, connected future for urban mobility’ where there are zero emissions, zero accidents and zero congestion. It’s a Brave New World, alright. The new platform is not being engineered for internal combustion engines.

The battery capacity ranges between 60-90kWh in this car; engineers confirmed to CAR magazine that it used technology and learnings from the i-Pace (Jaguar filed 250 patents on the electric SUV), even though no parts were shared.

What’s it like to be driven by an autonomous car? We sent Tim Pollard to find out – as a Nissan Leaf drove him around public roads in Bedfordshire

The boss on Jaguar Land Rover’s driverless car ambitions

Chief executive officer, Sir Ralf Speth, said: ‘Jaguar Land Rover understands the trends shaping modern societies… Through this project, we are collaborating with the brightest minds in academia, supply chain and digital services, to create connected, integrated mobility systems – the fundamental building blocks for Destination Zero. Project Vector is precisely the brave and innovative leap forward needed to deliver on our mission.’

New 2020 Jaguar Land Rover Project Vector

Interestingly, the JLR autonomous pod was conceived at its R&D think-tank embedded within the National Automotive Innovation Centre at the University of Warwick in the Midlands near the company’s headquarters. Around 20 of the pods will be released into the wild in the pilot programme later in 2021.

Engineers involved in the project are encouraged to think and act as a start-up, to get away from the ancien régime thinking that can dominate traditional car makers. 

Project director Dr Tim Leverton said: ‘The megatrends of urbanisation and digitalisation make connected urban mobility systems necessary and inevitable. Shared and private vehicles will share spaces with and be connected to public transit networks, so you can travel on demand and autonomously. That is a complex task, best achieved by working together with partners across the spectrum of vehicles, infrastructure and the digital world.’

Leverton added that the platform is able to be scaled up or down and confirmed it could easily stretch to a 5m long footprint, should larger units be demanded. ‘It’s fair to say this could be delivered into production by later this decade,’ he said. ‘We don’t see this as being far out.’

What do you make of Jaguar Land Rover’s Project Vector? Be sure to sound off in the comments below!

By Tim Pollard

Editorial director of CAR's digital publishing arm. Motoring news magnet