Jaguar Land Rover is throwing the kitchen sink at autonomous driving technology. On top of the tools it's developing for off-road autonomy, the Brits are planning to create a fleet of research vehicles testing a raft of self-driving technologies, ready to help drivers through roadworks and warn them of oncoming emergency services.
Initially, this testing will be focused on effective communications, from car-to-car and from car-to-infrastructure. Self-driving vehicles do their best work when they're linked, driving closer together than a reactive human behind the wheel would ever be able to.
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Of course, we're not quite at the point where humans are able to take their hands off the wheel. That doesn't mean there aren't any immediate benefits to be taken from car-to-car communication, something proven by the car-to-x system in the new Mercedes E-Class. Jaguar says its communication system could make it easier for drivers to change lanes or cross busy junctions.
This communication system could also be used to warn drivers about hazards coming from over the horizon. That could be a broken-down car or it could be a traffic jam, but giving drivers (or the computer chip behind the wheel) prior warning allows them to avoid the problem, or be better prepared to handle it when they arrive.
Prior warning can also be useful when it comes to emergency services. When most drivers hear sirens they know they need to get out of the way, but they don't know what they're getting out of the way of. Jaguar wants to help emergency services by letting their vehicles communicate with regular cars, warning people there's a firetruck, ambulance or police car coming, and telling them where it's coming from.
Everyone has been held up by roadworks at some point. JLR isn't able to get rid of the workers, but it is able to make life easier for drivers as they try to navigate the cones and barriers. Using a stereo camera on the front of the car, the Roadwork Assist system paints a 3D picture of the road ahead.
It's able to recognize cones and barriers, and plots the ideal course through the maze, giving a helpful tug at the wheel if a driver deviates from that course.
Jaguar's Safe Pullaway system is also designed to help nervous, lazy drivers. If the stereo camera detects there's a chance of smacking into another car in traffic or driving into a garage wall, the system automatically hits the brakes and sounds an alarm.
These systems are being trialed on a 41 mile (66 km) test route around Coventry and Solihull later this year.
Source: Jaguar Land RoverView gallery - 12 images