Storm chaser ‘Tornado Tim’ Baker drove the Jaguar XF through America’s Midwest in search of a tornado as this year’s storm season came to a dramatic close.
A storm chaser’s role is vital to help predict tornadoes and save lives, so the XF was the perfect mobile lab for the chase team to catch their tornado and collect vital data.
The chase, which covered 2,000 miles (3, 218kms) of highway and farm tracks through seven US states, saw the XF evade baseball-sized hailstones and drive through floods and high winds before intercepting a twister on the Iowa-Illinois border.
After the encounter, Baker said: “Storm chasing is all about getting to the right place at the right time – and also staying out of trouble. It has been an interesting year for storms and it was great to try this car out as the season came to a close.”
“It took us a while to track one down, but when the weather map delivered, the car did too. The navigation and in-car Wi-Fi, which allowed us to connect our multiple devices, worked brilliantly in the chase. The all-wheel-drive capability was also excellent as we travelled through rain and floods on loose gravel roads.”
The chase began with the biggest storm of the 2016 season looming over the American Midwest, with a potential 95 million people in its path. It took Tim from Denver, Colorado, right up into Minnesota and down to Illinois.
During the chase, Baker met Brian Smith, Warning Coordination Meteorologist at the Omaha office of the National Weather Service (NWS), which uses radar data to help scientists issue prompt, life-saving warnings to agencies and the general public.
Tornado chasers like Tim, and the vehicles they use, are a vital part of the modern network of weather warning. Having people on the ground to confirm the storms and analyse their path can help experts study them and predict future disasters.
The AWD XF found its twister when Baker intercepted a Category EF 0 (60-70 mph winds) tornado, two hours west of Chicago. The storm drenched the region, flooding roads and scattering debris, but the car coped brilliantly with the dirt roads and slippery highways.
With roads blocked, Tim used the super quick, pinch and zoom in-car navigation system, with 3D and satellite mapping, to find a safe way around the twister. Overnight, the storm delivered several more tornadoes, damaging buildings.
Kevin Stride, Vehicle Line Director for Jaguar XF said: “This was a real showcase for the XF’s capabilities. Tim was able to view storm data on the car’s 10 inch touchscreen and use the world-class In-Control Touch Pro navigation system to find them while travelling in comfort.”
“When the weather deteriorated, the car’s all surface capability with Adaptive Surface Response and torque on demand all-wheel-drive came into its own. The XF’s AdSR was able to fully exploit all available traction by altering mapping of the throttle, automatic transmission and DSC system to give confidence on the gravel tracks and cope with extreme flooding and high winds.”
“As expected, the tornado chase provided some extremely diverse challenges and we knew this would be a real genuine test for the XF, so we were delighted to see it handle all the conditions with ease…and come back in one piece.”
Why sports cars make us feel good
Forget romance, fine dining or an epic boxset binge – new preliminary research reveals that driving a sports car on a daily basis is among the best ways to boost your sense of wellbeing and emotional fulfilment.
The study measured “buzz moments” – peak thrills that play a vital role in our overall wellness – as volunteers cheered on their favourite football team, watched a gripping Game of Thrones episode, enjoyed a passionate kiss with a loved one or took an intense salsa dancing class. Only the occasional highs of riding a roller coaster ranked higher than the daily buzz of a commute in a sports car.
Working with neuroscientists and designers, Ford brought the research to life with the unique Ford Performance Buzz Car: a customised Ford Focus RS incorporating wearable and artificial intelligence technology to animate the driver’s emotions in real time across the car’s exterior.
Watch the video here https://youtu.be/AFpt6jziFsU
“A roller coaster may be good for a quick thrill, but it’s not great for getting you to work every day,” said Dr Harry Witchel, Discipline Leader in Physiology. “This study shows how driving a performance car does much more than get you from A to B – it could be a valuable part of your daily wellbeing routine.”
Study participants who sat behind the wheel of a Ford Focus RS, Focus ST or Mustang experienced an average of 2.1 high-intensity buzz moments during a typical commute; this compared with an average of 3 buzz moments while riding on a roller coaster, 1.7 while on a shopping trip, 1.5 each while watching a Game of Thrones episode or a football match, and none at all while salsa dancing, fine dining or sharing a passionate kiss.
For the research, Ford took one Focus RS and worked with Designworks to create the Buzz Car:
From concept, design and installation to software development and programming, the Buzz Car took 1,400 man-hours to create. Each “buzz moment” experienced by the driver – analysed using a real-time “emotional AI” system developed by leading empathic technology firm Sensum – produces a dazzling animation across almost 200,000 LED lights integrated into the car. The Buzz Car also features:
- High-performance Zotac VR GO gaming PC
- 110 x 500-lumen daylight-bright light strips
- 82 display panels with 188,416 individually addressable LEDs
Driver state research
Researchers at the Ford Research and Innovation Center in Aachen, Germany are already looking into how vehicles can better understand and respond to drivers’ emotions. As part of the EUfunded ADAS&ME project, Ford experts are investigating how in-car systems may one day be aware of our emotions – as well as levels of stress, distraction and fatigue – providing prompts and warnings, and could even take control of the car in emergency situations.
“We think driving should be an enjoyable, emotional experience,” said Dr Marcel Mathissen, research scientist at Ford of Europe. “The driver-state research Ford and its partners are undertaking is helping to lead us towards safer roads and – importantly – healthier driving.”
|Activity||Buzz Moments *|
|Game of Thrones||1.5|
* Average number of high-intensity buzz moments per participant
Car that sees round corners
Jaguar Land Rover is leading a £4.7 million (approximately R79 million) project to develop self-driving cars that can ‘see’ at blind junctions and through obstacles.
Britain’s biggest carmaker is leading a project called AutopleX to combine connected, automated and live mapping tech so more information is provided earlier to the self-driving car. This enables automated cars to communicate with all road users and obstacles where there is no direct view, effectively helping them see, so they can safely merge lanes and negotiate complex roundabouts autonomously.
Chris Holmes, Connected and Autonomous Vehicle Research Manager at Jaguar Land Rover said: “This project is crucial in order to bring self-driving cars to our customers in the near future. Together with our AutopleX partners, we will merge our connected and autonomous research to empower our self-driving vehicles to operate safely in the most challenging, real-world traffic situations. This project will ensure we deliver the most sophisticated and capable automated driving technology.”
Jaguar Land Rover is developing fully- and semi-automated vehicle technologies, offering customers a choice of an engaged or automated drive, while maintaining an enjoyable and safe driving experience. The company’s vision is to make the self-driving car viable in the widest range of real-life, on- and off-road driving environments and weather.
AutopleX will develop the technology through simulation and public road testing both on motorways and in urban environments in the West Midlands. Highways England, INRIX, Ricardo, Siemens, Transport for West Midlands and WMG at the University of Warwick join the AutopleX consortium, which was announced as part of Innovate UK’s third round of Connected and Autonomous Vehicle Funding in March 2018.