Jaguar Land Rover has announced plans to ease itself into the self-driving vehicle market in a bid to reduce driver stress and improve safety.
The British manufacturer says it will create a fleet of more than 100 research vehicles fitted with ‘Connected and Autonomous Vehicle’ (CAV) technologies by 2020, with the first vehicles to be tested on a 41-mile route comprised motorways and roads later in 2016 around Coventry and Solihull.
Testing will involve ‘vehicle-to-vehicle’ and ‘vehicle-to-infrastructure’ communications technologies that will allow the Jaguar Land Rover vehicles to communicate with each other as well as with road signs, overhead gantries and traffic lights.
This, the manufacturer says, will assist the driver and make lane changing and crossing junctions easier and safer. It will also help keep Jaguar competitive in the market as other manufacturers and technology companies such as Google have been working on self-driving.
Jaguar Land Rover head of research Tom Harper said: “Our connected and automated technology could help improve traffic flow, cut congestion and reduce the potential for accidents.
“We will also improve the driving experience, with drivers able to choose how much support and assistance they need. In traffic, for example, the driver could choose autonomy assist during tedious or stressful parts of the journey.
“But even when an enthusiastic driver is fully focussed on enjoying the thrill of the open road, the new technology we are creating will still be working in the background to help keep them safe. Because the intelligent car will always be alert and is never distracted, it could guide you through road works and prevent accidents.”
Roadwork Assist is one of the technologies to be tested, which uses a forward-facing stereo camera to generate a 3D view of the road ahead. That and ‘advanced image processing software’ will allow the vehicles to recognise cones and barriers and will let them know when approaching roadworks, giving a warning and steering assistance where applicable.
Safe Pullaway, meanwhile, uses a stereo camera to monitor the area immediately in front of the vehicle and will control throttle pedal activation or gear selection that could lead to a collision with a closeby vehicle. In worst case scenarios the brakes will be applied automatically.
Then there’s Over the Horizon Warning, which will use data sent between vehicles via radio signals to warn vehicles of a hazard or obstacle the driver would be unable to see such as a a queue of traffic around a blind corner. A stopped vehicle would send a ‘Hazard Ahead’ warning to vehicles in the vicinity so they can act accordingly.
“If you are a keen driver, imagine being able to receive a warning that there’s a hazard out of sight or around a blind bend. Whether it’s a badly parked car or an ambulance heading your way, you could slow down, pass the hazard without fuss and continue on your journey,” Harper explained.
The final piece of Jaguar Land Rover’s autonomous technologies is Emergency Vehicle Warning, which does what it says on the tin. Ambulances, police cars and fire engines would send out a signal warning of their approach, details of their direction and distance from approach broadcasted to the driver.