Autonomous driving is gaining speed. Self-driving cars may redefine the automotive industry and could be closer than we think. So, Land Rover is developing their vision of off-road autonomous driving that could allow any terrain to be tackled, not just tarmac.
Impressive Bond-like technology sees sensors detect surface conditions like grass, sand, gravel and even falling snow from five meters away and adjust its path accordingly, slowing down if it detects bumpy terrain, potholes or standing water. But how?
The system uses a combination of cameras, ultrasonic, radar and lidar to give a 360-degree view of the world around it. Low hanging branch ahead? No problem. The Overhead Clearance Assist will tell you if there’s room to slip under or not.
The idea is that the incisive sensors see better than the driver and make a judgement using all the data collected giving the car enough intelligence to make a 3D path and plan the best route.
Tony Harper, Head of Research at JLR, says: ‘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.
He add: ‘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.’
Part of the JLR project is also to connect two vehicles using their Off-Road Connected Convoy through a wireless system where the two vehicles can talk to each other by sharing information like wheel slip, changes to articulation and suspension height then adapt appropriately.
Tony Harper explains: ‘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 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.’
Impressive stuff! Watch below as the team at JLR demonstrate this autonomous capability.