Jaguar Land Rover is in the process of developing autonomous technology that can handle any type of terrain a vehicle may encounter.
The automaker that builds some of the most capable vehicles off-road is working on a self-driving system that can identify various surface conditions, adjust vehicle settings to suit, and then proceed without any driver involvement.
“We don’t want to limit future highly automated and fully autonomous technologies to tarmac,” said Jaguar Land Rover R&D boss Tony Harper. “When the driver turns off the road, we want this support and assistance to continue.”
Various sensors including camera, ultrasonic, radar, and LIDAR units are used to constantly scan a vehicle’s surroundings, in some cases up to 5.0 meters ahead. The sensors are advanced enough to determine surface characteristics, down to the width of a tire, even in rain and falling snow.
Collected data is then analyzed by artificial intelligence, which can predict the potential impact of the surrounding environment on the vehicle’s ride and automatically adjust speed, steering, and suspension to suit. The sensors also measure the area above and to the sides of the vehicle so can warn if there is insufficient clearance ahead — ideal for saving you from those car park scrapes.
The developments are important as they could also help on-road autonomous cars which are currently limited by severe weather conditions such as heavy snow.
Jaguar Land Rover has also come up with a “platoon” type technology where a convoy of vehicles heading off-road can communicate with one another, which is especially useful if a vehicle ahead encounters a ditch or slippery boulder, is out of sight around a bend, or perhaps on the other side of an off-road obstacle.
There’s no word on when the technology might be available. However, Jaguar Land Rover is keen to stress that it isn’t meant to take the fun out of off-roading, as the driver can still take full control should they desire. It’s simply there to aid progress and help save you for any unforeseen circumstance or if you’re simply over your head.