It’s automatically gripped, sorted! JLR developing advanced off-road tech

Published: 12 July 2016

► JLR 'to offer autonomous driving on any terrain'
► Systems to identify terrain and hazards
► Vehicle-to-vehicle comms to improve safety

Jaguar Land Rover has offered a glimpse into the fruits of its multi-million pound autonomous off-road driving project, which aims to simplify off-roading and improve safety.

Tony Harper, head of research at JLR, said: ‘Our all-terrain autonomy research isn’t just about the car driving itself on a motorway or in extreme off-road situations. It’s about helping both the driven and autonomous car make their way safely through any terrain or driving situation.’

What’s the key tech being worked on?

The focus is on sensing technology. Data corralled from cameras, ultrasonic sensors, radar and LIDAR would permit a car to identify surface characteristics, allowing the car to better configure itself for best performance.

Harper added: ‘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.’

2016 JLR autonomous tech research

It’s stated that ultrasonic sensors can identify surface conditions, allowing for automatic selection of the best drive mode – maximising traction without any driver interaction. Similarly, the company’s ‘Overhead Clearance Assist’ system would use the car’s stereoscopic cameras to keep an eye out for low-hanging obstructions, which could clash with the roof, or roof-mounted accessories.

What about when the going gets really tough?

JLR has that covered, too, with a featured dubbed ‘Terrain-Based Speed Adoption’. This uses cameras to scan the path ahead and adjust the vehicle speed to maintain control and comfort. As a result, your Range Rover shouldn’t barrel down the road into a series of humps, causing it to go flying off the desired path.

JLR autonomous off-road tech

Any other neat safety tricks?

JLR has come up with a system that allows convoys of off-road vehicles to communicate, sharing information about suspension height, wheel slip and traction settings. 

Harper concluded: ‘If a vehicle has stopped, other vehicles in the convoy will be alerted – if the wheels of 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.’

All of these technologies, working together, could eventually enable a car to drive in a semi- or fully autonomous fashion over rough surfaces in inclement conditions – but there’s still a long way to go...

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By Lewis Kingston

Formerly of this parish. Inveterate car buyer and seller; currently owner of a '68 Charger project car