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Bump-stop! Jaguar Land Rover unveils pothole avoidance tech

Published: 10 June 2015

► Jaguar Land Rover's Pothole Alert
► New tech to avoid bumps in road ahead
► Crowdsourced big data to help all drivers 

Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) is developing Pothole Alert - a new tech system to identify holes in the road ahead, and then share the data with other road users. In an autonomous future, it could even be used to steer around potholes by crowdsourcing their whereabouts from multiple cars.

JLR claims the pioneering research could save motorists millions of pounds a year in avoided punctures and damage caused by the potholes that blight roads in Britain and many other countries. 

How does Pothole Alert work?

The system works with two technologies. Existing models detect severe road bumps which are then cross-mapped onto sat-nav data to identify damaged road surfaces; but JLR is also developing predictive tech, which uses a high-resolution 'stereo' digital camera to locate potholes ahead. The car then makes several adjustments:

  • Alert Drivers are warned so they can steer around the hole
  • Adjust Suspension is tuned for a softer response
  • Warn Cloud-based warnings issued to other cars locally
  • Avoid In future, autonomous cars could steer around potholes

The basic principles are similar to Daimler's 'Magic Carpet' ride system, which scans the road ahead. But JLR is looking at novel applications; the data could be used to alert local councils as to potholes' whereabouts, so they can patch up holes in the road more effectively. JLR is working with local authority Coventry City Council on a pilot scheme.

A fleet of experimental Range Rover Evoques is being used to test the new technology, which relies on the company's MagneRide magnerheological dampers whose viscosity and rebound are adjusted in milliseconds by sending an electrical charge through fluid with magnetic particles.

The boffin in charge

Mike Bell, JLR's global connected car director, said: 'Our MagneRide equipped Range Rover Evoque and Discovery Sport vehicles feature sophisticated sensors that allow the vehicle to profile the road surface under the wheels and identify potholes, raised manholes and broken drain covers. By monitoring the motion of the vehicle and changes in the height of the suspension, the car is able to continuously adjust the vehicle’s suspension characteristics, giving passengers a more comfortable ride over uneven and damaged road surfaces.

'While this gives our customers a more comfortable ride, we think there is a huge opportunity to turn the information from these vehicle sensors into "big data" and share it for the benefit of other road users. This could help prevent billions of pounds of vehicle damage and make road repairs more effective.'

By Tim Pollard

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

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