Future tech: the remote-control Range Rover Sport driven from your smartphone

Published: 16 June 2015

► Remote control Range Rover Sport
► Drive off-road from your smartphone
► Autonomous 180deg turns!

Looking forward to a future where cars drive themselves, and every motorway journey is an opportunity to get even more work emails answered? Us neither, so it’s good to know that Land Rover is busy trying to put autonomous car technology to more adventurous use.

The firm is currently developing sensor technology that will work in all weathers and all environments, to deliver autonomous capability that can make off-roading safer and more enjoyable – especially if you’re trying to traverse tricky obstacles on your own. The idea is based around being able to control your Land Rover from your smartphone, so you can steer it through the rough stuff from the outside.

This won’t keep your brogues from getting muddy, but it might just save you an expensive trip to the dealer by letting you see whether you really have got the ground clearance to pass over that sump-gutting tree stump. And for more day-to-day use, one working prototype based on a Range Rover Sport is already able to complete a smartphone controlled 180-degree turn.

Are we talking about remote controlled handbrake turns here? 

Ah, no. We’re talking about Austin Powers-style ‘multi-point’ turn manoeuvres – a more accurate description of the old driving test favourite, the three-point turn.

Control your Range Rover Sport from your smartphone

Simply put, should you and your Range Rover Sport end up in a dark alley and discover it’s actually a dead end, a button press on your phone will see the car turn itself around, handling accelerating, braking and steering until it’s fully pointing back the other way. Which sounds like it might be handy for drawing covering fire (clearly that deal has gone sour) – except you do need to remain within 10m of the car for the autonomous system to function.

Exactly what is the point of this? 

Land Rover is pitching this kind of out-of-car-driving-experience as the next logical step beyond existing self-parking technology.

‘Getting a car out of a tricky parking manoeuvre can be a stressful experience for any driver,’ according to JLR’s director of research and development, Dr Wolfgang Epple. ‘A remote-control car, or a vehicle that can autonomously turn in the road, demonstrates how we could use these new technologies to reduce the tedious parts of driving and improve road safety.’

Feel free to debate whether ‘tedious parts of driving’ is the same thing as ‘the bits that require well-developed spatial awareness, patience and skill’ as you see fit. But essentially, if Land Rover can make a Range Rover Sport pirouette on remote command, it should also be able to make it drive into spaces on its own that would otherwise be too tight to allow you to open and get out of the doors. 

All of which sounds like great news for car thieves, who at one point were reduced to only stealing previous-generation Range Rover Sports with opening sunroofs fitted, as this was the only way of getting out once the 4x4 had been loaded into a shipping container. But we digress. We're sure the smartphone remote software will be secure enough to prevent those kinds of shenanigans...

Tech works now; expect delay before this kind of thing goes on sale though

By CJ Hubbard

Former CAR magazine associate editor, road tester, organiser, extremely variable average wheel count

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