While the majority of manufacturers believe that autonomous technology should be used on public roads, Land Rover is interested in giving its already capable lineup of SUVs self-driving abilities over any type of terrain. The company has started research to explore the possibilities.
Jaguar Land Rover's Head of Research, Tony Harper, explained the research project's aim: "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."
To give drivers this type of help, Land Rover is using a variety of technologies, including ultrasonic, radar, and LIDAR units as well as surface identification and 3D path sensing technology. The latter takes information from cameras and the other systems to give the vehicle a 360-degree view of its surroundings. The automaker claims that the sensors are so advanced that the vehicle can determine read the surface down to the width of a tire, even in inclement weather. The sensors have the ability to scan up to 16 feet ahead of the vehicle and can change the car's Terrain Response settings automatically for a smoother ride. Much of the demonstrated technology is intended to work with the driver in off-roading situations, not necessarily take over the wheel.
A feature called Overhead Clearance Assist utilizes stereo cameras to scan for obstructions above and warns the driver of impending scratches. Terrain-Based Speed Adaption looks for standing water, rough surfaces, or potholes and automatically slows the vehicle. But it doesn't stop there. The technology also includes vehicle-to-vehicle communication so a fleet of cars going off-roading can communicate with one another. This will surely be useful if the car ahead encounters a difficult obstacle or is out of sight.
Jaguar Land Rover hasn't said when this technology will become available. Given the current difficulty of developing autonomous cars that benefit from road markings as a guide, we expect training cars to adapt to different terrain will be a daunting task.