Automotive

Land Rover looks to take autonomous driving off-road

Land Rover looks to take auton...
Land Rover is developing autonomous cars that can handle a wide range of off-road conditions
Land Rover is developing autonomous cars that can handle a wide range of off-road conditions
View 1 Image
Land Rover is developing autonomous cars that can handle a wide range of off-road conditions
1/1
Land Rover is developing autonomous cars that can handle a wide range of off-road conditions

It's probably fair to say that off-road driving is more fun than the road bits. When the self-driving car revolution begins, people will mainly use autonomy for the boring bits like commuting and highway miles, and will likely handle the off-road portions themselves.

But one of the hidden consequences of a self-driving city is that people will stop getting driver's licenses. Indeed, they'll stop learning to drive altogether in huge numbers. Within a generation or two, driving will be a hobby as eccentric as horse riding.

So, autonomous cars will need to learn the intricacies of off-roading at some point, and Land Rover has begun the process of developing the technology that'll let four-wheel-drives become four-wheel-self-drives with level 4 and 5 off-road autonomous capabilities.

The key issues will be topography and surface traction. While roads are uniformly flat and generally pretty grippy, off-road driving requires you to manage all four wheels in a dynamic environment. Rocks, ruts, logs, uneven slopes and puddles of indeterminate depth are all obstacles that will need to be dealt with.

Land Rover's autonomous SUV project Cortex aims to address these issues with a multi-sensor approach, using acoustic, video, radar and LiDAR systems to form a combined picture of what the terrain is doing. These systems will have to work in an even wider array of scenarios than the ones in street cars – dirt, mud, big rocks, small rocks, snow, ice and fog all play a much bigger part in off-roading and could foul and blind the sensors in a hundred different ways.

The Cortex team, joined by radar and sensor researchers from the University of Birmningham, as well as machine learning experts from Myrtle AI, are preparing to begin physical testing, sensor optimization and algorithm development at a number of UK off-road tracks.

Source: Jaguar Land Rover

4 comments
highlandboy
Given the number of people who have a licence to drive on the road that get into trouble when off roading, such tech may be of significant advantage. Particularly to those who are inexperienced (or worse still have reinforced bad habits when off road).
Grumpyrelic
"Humans know nothing... I can climb that tree and drive down that cliff." Will it be really enjoyable to be the passenger in off road vehicle? Why not just let the car go play in nature by itself, ripping up rare and delicate ecology?
paul314
I hope the sensors and software are equipped to handle "No Trespassing" signs and to at least try to avoid chewing up fragile landscapes. Because if any fool can tell their car to go off road, lots of fools will.
ljaques
Given that the current drivers hardly know how to =steer=, let alone drive, autonomous vehicles are probably a good thing. But OFFroad? Perhaps as a last resort only, please. Or perhaps as a constant nag: "Um, are you SURE you want to do this, driver? I show a 0.3 percent chance of success."