JLR takes future autonomous vehicles tech for a spin

Posted on 2 Feb 2016 by Jonny Williamson

Jaguar Land Rover has announced multi-million pound research projects geared towards developing Connected and Autonomous Vehicle (CAV) technologies.

CAV test corridor

The first project is a new CAV test corridor – comprising 41 miles of roads around Coventry and Solihull – which will be used to evaluate new systems in real-world driving conditions.

The £5.5m UK-CITE (UK Connected Intelligent Transport Environment) project will create the first test route capable of testing both vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure systems on public roads in the UK.

New roadside communications equipment will be installed along the route during the three year project to enable the testing of a fleet of up to 100 connected and highly automated cars, including five JLR research vehicles.

This fleet will test a range of different communication technologies that could share information at very high speeds between cars, and between cars and roadside infrastructure, including traffic lights and overhead gantries.

The Government is supporting the UK-CITE research with a £3.41m grant from Innovate UK – part of the Government’s £100m Connected and Autonomous Vehicles fund.

Director of research and technology at JLR, Dr Wolfgang Epple explained: “This real-life laboratory will allow Jaguar Land Rover’s research team and project partners to test new connected and autonomous vehicle technologies on five different types of roads and junctions.

Dr Wolfgang Epple, director of research and technology, JLR.
Dr Wolfgang Epple, director of research and technology, JLR.

“Similar research corridors already exist in other parts of Europe, so this test route is exactly the sort of innovation infrastructure the UK needs to compete globally.

“The connected and autonomous vehicle features we will be testing will improve road safety; enhance the driving experience; reduce the potential for traffic jams, and improve traffic flow.

“These technologies will also help us meet the increasing customer demand for connected services while on the move.”

Connected technologies are key enablers for future Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS). These would help traffic authorities monitor and manage traffic flow by capturing data from all connected vehicles and then provide the driver or autonomous car with guidance to optimise the journey.

To improve traffic flow, connected cars could co-operate and work together to make lane changing and exiting from junctions more efficient and safer.

Technologies like Cooperative Adaptive Cruise Control (CACC) would enable vehicles to autonomously follow each other in close formation, known as platooning, making driving safer and ensuring road space is used more efficiently. 

Over the horizon warnings

In the future, warning messages that are today flashed onto an overhead gantry above a road could be sent direct to the dashboard – and repeated if necessary.

Warning messages that are today flashed onto an overhead gantry above a road could be sent direct to the dashboard.

This would have the potential to eventually replace the overhead gantry, which each cost around £1m to install.

The JLR research team will be real-world testing a range of ‘Over the Horizon’ warning systems.

As well as warning drivers, these would inform future autonomous vehicles, helping them react and respond to hazards and changing traffic conditions automatically. 

Epple added: “A well-informed driver is a safer driver, while an autonomous vehicle will need to receive information about the driving environment ahead.

“The benefits of smarter vehicles communicating with each other and their surroundings include a car sending a warning that it is braking heavily or stopping in a queue of traffic or around a bend. This will enable an autonomous car to take direct action and respond.

“Drivers would receive a visual and audible warning that another car is causing a hazard out of sight or over the horizon.

Autonomous vehicles which drive like humans, not robots

JLR has also announced a multi-million pound research project that it hopes will help future autonomous vehicles drive naturally like human drivers, rather than robots.

If the driver or autonomous car can be informed much earlier of an approaching emergency vehicle, the best decisions can be made to move the vehicle out of the way safely and conveniently.

A fleet of JLR vehicles will be driven daily by employees of the London Borough of Greenwich, to establish how a range of different drivers react to real-world driving situations, including heavy traffic; busy junctions; road works, and bad weather.

Data from sensors in these cars will reveal the natural driving behaviours and decision-making that drivers make while driving; including complex and stressful scenarios such as giving way at roundabouts and intersections, entering a flow of traffic, or reacting to an emergency vehicle.

The three-year, £5.5m ‘MOVE-UK’ project – which is led by Bosch – will also use this data to help develop insurance policies for future autonomous cars.

Insurance experts will provide their expertise on the liability of certain scenarios using the real-world driving data supplied by the fleet of test cars.

The Government is supporting the MOVE-UK research with a £2.75m grant from Innovate UK – again, part of its £100m Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CAV) fund.

Epple commented: “To successfully introduce autonomous cars, we actually need to focus more on the driver than ever before.

The MOVE-UK consortium is led by Bosch and includes Jaguar Land Rover; Transport Research Laboratory (TRL); Direct Line; the London Borough of Greenwich, and The Floow.

“Drivers will need to completely trust the vehicle before they opt-in and engage automated systems. If an autonomous car can be programmed to have a very similar reaction to a real driver, then the autonomous experience will be more natural, and the driver more likely to allow the car to take control.”  

He continued: “Ultimately we want to be able to give drivers the choice of an engaged or autonomous drive.

“If drivers have confidence in the automation they will seamlessly flick from one mode to the other. Autonomous mode will help with any challenging, or less stimulating activities on the journey, like parking or driving in heavy traffic. If this automated experience feels natural and safe, the driver will be able to genuinely relax and will be happy to let the car take control.”