First we lamented the slow demise of the solid axle and manual transfer case but never you mind that, they won’t stop until everything’s rid, including the driver…
Jaguar Land Rover has a vision of autonomous off-roading so that even away from the tarmac you won’t be having any fun – what next, autonomous hiking? Autonomous stamp collecting?
In seriousness, lots of British engineers in JLR’s advanced research centre at Warwick University are working on next-generation sensors that are so, um, sensitive, they can detect grass and gravel bits and snow. The system will be able to recognise water and the deviation of the terrain including small bumps in the way, adjusting vehicle speed automatically so you’ve got no excuse if you don’t make it all the way up the Al Faya dunes of Friday.
“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,” explains JLR’s head of research Tony Harper.
That means that your future Range Rover will be able to 3D scan its surroundings including any hazards, even above the vehicle with the sensors mindful of overhanging branches and such – no more visits to the body shop. Even if you’re carrying cargo on the roof you’ll be able to programme the system to note the vehicle height.
Speed will be adjusted according to the roughness of the road so that you don’t have to nervously scan the path for washboard surfaces or potholes. Best of all, for convoy off-roading through the desert in the future, JLR’s SUVs will come with wireless connectivity communicating vehicle to vehicle and exchanging data such as suspension movement, and wheel slip and articulation, so that following vehicles already know what grade of terrain is coming up.
Harper adds, “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.”
That is potentially very cool considering that on the ultimate safari of the future you will be able to leave everything to your Range Rover (or Jaguar F-Pace…) and devote all your time to wondering whether that was a buffalo or just another doggone tree stump.