Although the majority of self-driving vehicle technologies have been applied to road use, Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) has now demonstrated a range of innovative research technologies that would allow a future autonomous car to drive itself over any surface or terrain.
JLR’s multi-million pound 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 autonomy, JLR’s researchers are developing next-generation sensing technologies that will be the eyes of the future self-driving 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. Surface identification and 3D path sensing research combines camera, ultrasonic, radar and lidar sensors to give the car a 360-degree view of the world around it, with sensors so advanced that the car could determine surface characteristics, down to the width of a tire, even in rain and falling snow, to plan its route.
Ultrasonic sensors can identify surface conditions by scanning a distance of up to 16ft (5m) 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, optimizing all-terrain performance, without loss of momentum or control. Branches overhanging a track, or parking lot overhead barriers would also need to be identified. Overhead Clearance Assist uses stereo camera technology to scan ahead for obstructions. The driver programs 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 is then intelligent enough to predict the potential impact of these surfaces on the car’s ride and automatically adjusts speed to keep passengers comfortable. Another key element of successful 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.
In a world-first off-road demonstration, JLR has connected two Range Rovers using innovative DSRC (dedicated short range communications) technology to create an Off-Road Connected Convoy. The 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.
Tony Harper, JLR’s head of research, said, “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.”
To see a video JLR’s demonstration click here.