Land Rover Steers Toward Hands-Free Off-Roading With Robo-SUVs
(Bloomberg) -- Getting off the beaten track and navigating a rugged off-roader through sand, mud and gravel may one day be a hands-free activity.
The maker of the Range Rover is working on self-driving technology capable of handling all types of terrain and weather as part of a 3.7 million-pound ($4.9 million) project, Jaguar Land Rover Automotive Plc said Wednesday. The goal is to combine acoustic sensors, cameras, radar and LiDAR technology to enable a car to assess and react to its surroundings, according to the unit of India’s Tata Motors Ltd.
“The expectation is that from the middle of the next decade onwards, we’ll see some features rolling out” that would enable autonomous driving in off-road conditions, Nigel Clarke, a JLR research manager, said in an interview. That could pave the way for fully autonomous vehicles capable of handling dirt, ice and fog after 2030.
The project is a unique challenge for autonomous-driving technology, which is generally focused on relieving the chores of daily driving such as stop-and-go traffic. JLR has already moved to establish itself in the race to develop street-ready systems by teaming up with Alphabet Inc.’s Waymo. The cooperation will add as many as 20,000 Jaguar I-Pace electric SUVs to the Google parent’s ride-hailing service beginning in 2020.
The goal of the off-road research is to make the technology more robust as drivers in markets such as Russia, Brazil and the Middle East face conditions that are “less than ideal,” straining systems with dirt tracks, snowy roads or sandstorms, Clarke said. JLR said its plan is to make self-driving cars available in “the widest range of real-life, on- and off-road driving environments and weather.”
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