Jaguar Land Rover plans fleet of 100 research vehicles that will test connected and autonomous technologies to assist drivers
Jaguar Land Rover is to start testing self-driving cars on British roads, and plans to roll out a fleet of more than 100 research vehicles by 2020.
The company plans to roll out the first of the test vehicles by as early as the end of this year, and will test them on a 41-mile route close to its headquarters in Coventry. The route consists of motorways and urban roads.
Jaguar wants to test its latest autonomous and connected car technology, including a ‘Roadwork Assist’ feature that will help steer drivers through roadworks.
Initial tests will also involve car-to-car and car-to-infrastructure communications, with Jaguar Land Rover wanting to research how cars can communicate with each other and with traffics systems such as traffic lights and overhead gantries.
The company said that ultimately, data sharing between vehicles will allow for future driverless cars to ‘work together’ to assist drivers.
By 2020, research firm Gartner predicts that there will be more than 250 million connected vehicles on roads around the world. Companies like Google, BMW, Mercedes and Tesla are at the forefront of driverless vehicle research, but doubts still remain as to the safety of the technology. Last month, a man in the United States was killed when his Tesla Model S car crashed while the autopilot function was in operation.
Tony Harper, Jaguar Land Rover’s head of research, said that the automated technology that will be tested could reduce congestion and improve road safety.
“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,” he said.
“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.”
Jaguar Land Rover’s research vehicles will use a forward-facing stereo camera that generates a 3D view of the road ahead. Coupled with image processing software, the camera will be able to recognise cones and barriers, and sense when the car is approaching roadworks. While not being completely self-driving, the car will apply small amounts of steering assistance to the wheel to the help the driver stay centred.
“Driving through congested roadworks can be a stressful experience for many people – especially when the lanes narrow and switch to the other side of the road, or if road markings are faint, obscured or missing. To overcome this, our prototype system will guide the vehicle to the centre of the narrow lane, reducing driver workload and stress. With further research, in the future this system could enable the car to drive autonomously through roadworks,” said Harper.
The research vehicles will also test a system that Jaguar Land Rover calls an ‘over the horizon warning’. It uses radio signals transmitted from other cars to warn of hazards and obstacles ahead on the motorway or around a blind bend.
If a vehicle in front has slowed or stopped, the system will also send a ‘hazard ahead’ warning to cars behind, notifying drivers of the upcoming danger.
Jaguar Land Rover also wants to test the technology with emergency services vehicles. Fire engines and ambulance will be able to send warnings ahead in traffic, alerting drivers to the direction the emergency vehicle is coming from and how far away it is.