One of Jaguar Land Rover’s research vehicles is able to measure the location and severity of potholes, and adjust its suspension in a fraction of a second to prepare the vehicle for impact.
Researchers at JLR are looking into ways of sharing this information with other vehicles so all road users could be warned about dangerous potholes ahead. Road authorities could also use the data to identify the worst potholes, helping them to prioritise repairs.
The Range Rover Evoque research vehicle makes use of MagneRide dampers (existing technology that’s already available with the Evoque, but not on base-spec eD4 models). Controlled by an ECU, the MagneRide dampers contain a special fluid which changes viscosity in milliseconds, depending on the strength of the magnetic field that is passed through them.
Dr Mike Bell, Global Connected Car Director, Jaguar Land Rover, said: ‘By monitoring the motion of the vehicle and changes in the height of the suspension, the car is able to continuously adjust the vehicle’s suspension characteristics, giving passengers a more comfortable ride over uneven and damaged road surfaces.
‘While this gives our customers a more comfortable ride, we think there is a huge opportunity to turn the information from these vehicle sensors into ‘big data’ and share it for the benefit of other road users. This could help prevent billions of pounds of vehicle damage and make road repairs more effective.’ (Potholes are said to cost British motorists £2.8 billion a year in punctures and wheel and vehicle damage.)
Scanning the road ahead
JLR’s Advanced Research Centre is also developing a forward-facing stereo digital camera for the Range Rover Evoque research vehicle, which would detect potholes before the vehicle hits them.
‘At the moment the most accurate data comes from when the car has driven over the pothole or manhole’, added Mike Bell. ‘So we are also researching how we could improve the measurement and accuracy of pothole detection by scanning the road ahead, so the car could predict how severe they are before the vehicle gets near them.
The technology could also be used by the autonomous cars of the future, allowing the car to avoid potholes automatically.
Using the information for road maintenance
The JLR research team will be working with Coventry City Council to understand how information could be shared, and exactly what data would be most useful for their roads maintenance teams.
The experimental camera may be able to send the road authorities a photo of the pothole, together with a GPS location.
‘This could give us a very accurate, minute-by-minute picture of damage to road surfaces, manholes and drains in real time,’ said Councillor Rachel Lancaster, Cabinet Member for Public Services at Coventry City Council. ‘Having this kind of extra information might allow us to further improve our maintenance programmes which would save the taxpayer money.’