Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) has demonstrated research technologies that would allow a future autonomous car to drive itself over any surface or terrain.
JLR says the 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.
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.
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.”
‘Surface Identification’ and ‘3D Path Sensing’ research combines camera, ultrasonic, radar and LIDAR sensors to give the car a 360 degree view, with the sensors ‘so advanced’, says JLR, that the car could determine surface characteristics, down to the width of a tyre, even in rain and falling snow, to plan its route.
Harper added: “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.
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 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 can then predict the potential impact of these surfaces on the car’s ride and automatically adjust speed to keep passengers comfortable.
Another key element of 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.
JLR connected two Range Rover Sports together using 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.