Jaguar Land Rover Enters the Autonomous Race, Test Vehicles on Public Roads
Jaguar Land Rover has taken its first steps into the scariest part of autonomous development — real world testing.
As most automakers are already deep into R&D work on self-driving cars, luxury manufacturers like JLR cannot afford to be late to the party. In today’s world, premium automobiles are less about ride quality or cabin space and more about having the latest and greatest tech. A big, comfortable car isn’t hard to come by — they used to build them all the time. They also aren’t particularly expensive, especially if you shop on the used market.
However, a 2005 Lincoln Town Car in the driveway doesn’t scream “prestige” to the neighbors. But an autonomous Range Rover that parks itself in the garage while you get the mail is something else entirely. If you had a vehicle like that, the guy across the street would have difficulty even holding your now-powerful gaze — shamed by his own car’s clear inferiority. Imagine what kind of price you might pay to have that kind of mastery over another person. Now you can see why this technology is so important to JLR.
“Testing this self-driving project on public roads is so exciting, as the complexity of the environment allows us to find robust ways to increase road safety in the future,” explained Nick Rogers, the company’s executive director of product engineering. “By using inputs from multiple sensors, and finding intelligent ways to process this data, we are gaining accurate technical insight to pioneer the automotive application of these technologies … We are supporting innovative research that will be integral to the infrastructure, technology and legal landscape needed to make intelligent, self-driving vehicles a reality within the next decade.”
The collaborative project he’s speaking of is UK Autodrive, which kicked off road-testing this Friday with Jaguar Land Rover, Ford Motor Co., and Tata Motors’ European Technical Center as participants. According to the group, this week’s kickoff represents the largest trial of connected and autonomous vehicle in the United Kingdom.
UK Autodrive is the largest of three consortia launched to encourage the introduction of self-driving cars in Europe. Previous tests were conducted in closed-testing environments or in virtual spaces. The United Kingdom only began testing autonomous vehicles in public spaces about a year ago, when a LUTZ Pathfinder made a mile journey through Milton Keynes at a snail’s pace.
Jaguar Land Rover intends to clip along at more competitive speeds (the Pathfinder never made it above 15 miles per hour). The company wants to know how other drivers respond to anonymous vehicles and how to replicate human behavior while driving. Meanwhile, Ford is focusing more on how to make connected cars communicate with each other effectively.
[Image: Jaguar Land Rover]
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