Jaguar Land Rover demonstrates all-terrain self-driving research

Jaguar Land Rover has demonstrated a range of innovative research technologies that would allow a future autonomous car to drive itself over any surface or terrain.

Jaguar Land Rover's multi-million pound Autonomous All-Terrain Driving research project aims to make the self-driving car viable in the widest range of real life, on- and off-road driving environments and weather conditions.

To enable this level of autonomous all-terrain capability, Jaguar Land Rover's researchers are developing next-generation sensing technologies that will be the eyes of the future autonomous car. Because the sensors are always active and can see better than the driver, this advanced sensing will ultimately give a vehicle the high levels of artificial intelligence required for the car to think for itself and plan the route it should take, on any surface.

Surface identification and 3D path sensing research combines camera, ultrasonic, radar and LIDAR sensors to give the car a 360-degree view of the world around it, with sensors so advanced that the car could determine surface characteristics, down to the width of a tire, even in rain and falling snow, to plan its route.

Ultrasonic sensors can identify surface conditions by scanning up to five meters ahead of the car, so Terrain Response settings could be automatically changed before the car drives from tarmac to snow, or from grass to sand. This will optimize all-terrain performance, without loss of momentum or control.    

To complete the 3D path, branches overhanging a track, or a car park overhead barrier would also need to be identified to determine if the route ahead is clear. Overhead Clearance Assist uses stereo camera technology to scan ahead for overhead obstructions. The driver programs the system with the vehicle's height, which can include roof boxes or bicycles, and the car will warn the driver with a simple message in the infotainment touchscreen if there is insufficient clearance.

Sensors could also be used to scan the roughness of the road or track ahead and adjust vehicle speed. Terrain-based Speed Adaption (TBSA) uses cameras to sense bumpy terrain including uneven and undulating surfaces and washboard roads, potholes and even standing water. It is then intelligent enough to predict the potential impact of these surfaces on the car's ride and automatically adjust speed to keep passengers comfortable.

Another key element of successful all-terrain autonomous driving is the ability for vehicles to communicate with each other, especially if they are out of sight around a bend or on the other side of an off-road obstacle.

In a world-first off-road demonstration, Jaguar Land Rover has connected two Range Rover Sports together using innovative DSRC (Dedicated Short Range Communications) technology to create an Off-road Connected Convoy. This wireless vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications system shares information including vehicle location, wheel-slip, changes to suspension height and wheel articulation, as well as All-Terrain Progress Control (ATPC) and Terrain Response settings instantly between the two vehicles.

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