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Land Rover demos all-terrain autonomous driving

Jaguar Land Rover has demonstrated a range of 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.

Tony Harper, Head of Research, Jaguar Land Rover, said: “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.

“We don’t want to limit future highly automated and fully autonomous technologies to tarmac. When the driver turns off the road, we want this support and assistance to continue. In the future, if you enjoy the benefits of autonomous lane keeping on a motorway at the start of your journey, we want to ensure you can use this all the way to your destination, even if this is via a rough track or gravel road.

“So whether it’s a road under construction with cones and a contraflow, a snow-covered road in the mountains or a muddy forest track, this advanced capability would be available to both the driver AND the autonomous car, with the driver able to let the car take control if they were unsure how best to tackle an obstacle or hazard ahead. We are already world-leaders in all-terrain technologies: these research projects will extend that lead still further.”

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 tyre, even in rain and falling snow, to plan its route.

Tony Harper said: “The key enabler for autonomous driving on any terrain is to give the car the ability to sense and predict the 3D path it is going to drive through. This means being able to scan and analyse both the surface to be driven on, as well as any hazards above and to the sides of the path ahead. This might include car park barriers, tree roots and boulders or overhanging branches, as well as the materials and topography to be driven on.”

Ultrasonic sensors can identify surface conditions by scanning up to five metres 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 optimise 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 programmes 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.

Tony Harper said: “This V2V communications system can seamlessly link a convoy of vehicles in any off-road environment. If a vehicle has stopped, other vehicles in the convoy will be alerted – if the wheels of drop into a hole, or perhaps slip on a difficult boulder, this information is transmitted to all of the other vehicles. In the future, a convoy of autonomous vehicles would use this information to automatically adjust their settings or even change their route to help them tackle the obstacle.

“Or for the ultimate safari experience, cars following in convoy would be told by the lead car where to slow down and stop for their passengers to take the best photographs.”

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Jaguar Land Rover and BMW team up for electric tech

The collaboration seeks to advance consumer adoption of electric vehicle technology.

Jaguar Land Rover and BMW Group are joining forces to develop next generation Electric Drive Units (EDUs) in a move that will support the advancement of electrification technologies, a central part of the automotive industry’s transition to an ACES (Autonomous, Connected, Electric, Shared) future.

The strategic collaboration will build on the considerable knowledge and expertise in electrification at both companies. Jaguar Land Rover has demonstrated its leading technical capability in bringing the world’s first premium battery electric SUV to market – the 2019 World Car of the Year, the Jaguar I-PACE, as well as plug-in hybrid models; and BMW Group bringing vast experience of developing and producing several generations of electric drive units in-house since it launched the BMW i3 in 2013. 

Nick Rogers, Jaguar Land Rover Engineering Director said: “The transition to ACES represents the greatest technological shift in the automotive industry in a generation. The pace of change and consumer interest in electrified vehicles is gathering real momentum and it’s essential we work across industry to advance the technologies required to deliver this exciting future. 

“We’ve proven we can build world beating electric cars but now we need to scale the technology to support the next generation of Jaguar and Land Rover products. It was clear from discussions with BMW Group that both companies’ requirements for next generation EDUs to support this transition have significant overlap making for a mutually beneficial collaboration.”

The agreement will enable both companies to take advantage of efficiencies arising from shared research and development and production planning as well as economies of scale from joint procurement across the supply chain.

A team of Jaguar Land Rover and BMW Group experts will engineer the EDUs with both partners developing the systems to deliver the specific characteristics required for their respective range of products. 

The EDUs will be manufactured by each partner in their own production facilities. For Jaguar Land Rover this will be at its Wolverhampton-based Engine Manufacturing Centre (EMC), which was confirmed as the home for the company’s global EDU production in January of this year. The plant, which employs 1600 people, will be the centre of propulsion system manufacturing offering full flexibility between clean Ingenium petrol and diesel engines and electric units. The EMC will be complemented by the recently announced Battery Assembly Centre at Hams Hall, near Birmingham, in supplying electrified powertrain systems to Jaguar Land Rover’s global vehicle plants.

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Sensory steering wheel lets drivers feel the heat

Jaguar Land Rover researches rapid heating and cooling of the steering wheel for use with turn-by-turn navigation.

A steering wheel developed by Jaguar Land Rover could help keep drivers’ eyes on the road – by using heat to tell drivers when to turn left or right.

The research, in partnership with Glasgow University, has created a ‘sensory steering wheel’, parts of which can be quickly heated and cooled to inform drivers where to turn, when to change lane or to warn of an approaching junction. This could be particularly useful when visibility is reduced through poor weather or the layout of the road.

The technology has also been applied to the gear-shift paddles to indicate when hand over from the driver to autonomous control in future self-driving vehicles is complete. 

Driver distraction is a major contributor to road accidents around the world and accounts for 10 per cent of all fatal crashes in the USA alone*. Jaguar Land Rover’s research suggests thermal cues could be a way to keep drivers fully focused on the road.

The cues work on both sides of the steering wheel, indicating the direction to turn by rapidly warming or cooling one side by a difference of up to 6°C. For comfort a driver could adjust the range of temperature change.

Studies have shown** temperature-based instructions could also be used for non-urgent notifications, where vibrations could be deemed unnecessarily attention grabbing, for example as a warning when fuel is running low, or for upcoming events, such as points of interest. Thermal cues can also be used where audio feedback would be deemed too disruptive to cabin conversations or media playback.

Alexandros Mouzakitis, Jaguar Land Rover Electrical Research Senior Manager, said:“Safety is a number one priority for Jaguar Land Rover and we are committed to continuously improving our vehicles with the latest technological developments as well as preparing the business for a self-driving future. 

“The ‘sensory steering wheel’ is all part of this vision, with thermal cues able to reduce the amount of time drivers have to take their eyes off the road. Research has shown people readily understand the heating and cooling dynamics to denote directions and the subtlety of temperature change can be perfect for certain feedback that doesn’t require a more intrusive audio or vibration-based cue.”

The Jaguar Land Rover-funded research is part of a PhD study undertaken by Patrizia Di Campli San Vito at Glasgow University as part of its Glasgow Interactive Systems Research Section (GIST). 

Jaguar and Land Rover models already boast a wide range of sophisticated Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) designed to improve driver and vehicle safety, including the new generation Head-Up Display in the Range Rover Velar. The Velar also features capacitive steering wheel controls for common functions that combine with the Interactive Driver Display to help reduce driver distraction.

https://www.nhtsa.gov/sites/nhtsa.dot.gov/files/documents/812_381_distracteddriving2015.pdf

** http://eprints.gla.ac.uk/166314/1/166314.pdf

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