By on September 30, 2019

Jaguar Land Rover is reportedly working a system for the new Defender that would allow for low-speed maneuvers with all occupants outside the car. While it sounds like a good way to guarantee the safety of friends and family when traversing a cliff face that might be a bit too narrow, recent hiccups with Tesla’s new summoning tech has proven it’s best to exercise caution.

Fortunately, Land Rover says it wants to utilize the Defender’s 3-D Scout system to map the area surrounding the vehicle and allow drivers to control the Defender remotely from the outside in off-road environments (minimizing collision risks). This will likely require the addition of some level of vehicular autonomy, as JLR stipulates drivers will be controlling the model via the automaker’s wearable “Activity Key.” Present incarnations of the device are basically proximity sensors without the necessary controls to accomplish any meaningful level of remote control. 

That means JLR will either need to revamp the wrist-mounted key or fine-tune the car to a point that it doesn’t need it. Reports from Autocar seem to indicate the latter. “[Defender is] capable of being able to do that in terms of its architecture,” indicated JLR product engineer Stuart Frith. “We’ve got as far as understanding how to do it, and we’ve run prototypes as well.”

From Autocar:

While the new Defender has advanced traction systems, clever software and better visibility with cameras and other sensors, Frith said there’s no substitute for checking the surroundings from outside the car to get over obstacles. “If you’re in a tight spot and you’re on your own, you can still get out of the car and ‘spot it’ yourself,” he commented.

While some cars already on sale can perform low-speed parking manoeuvres by remote control, adding steering to the mix and dealing with challenging terrain makes things more difficult. Legislation is currently the biggest hurdle, with regulatory bodies wanting safety assurances.

We’ve already seen Tesla and a handful of other manufacturers implement parking-lot summoning, so the legislative issue shouldn’t be impossible to overcome — especially since this system is supposedly limited to off-road use. But how exactly are you supposed to act as your own spotter without controls telling the vehicle how best to proceed? This author’s muddin’ and rock-crawling experience is rather limited, but I’ve learned you place a ludicrous amount of trust in the person that’s checking your placement (and vice versa). Wheel positioning, hidden obstacles, distances, and countless other items need to be conveyed routinely and accurately so the driver can proceed safely. Even with a more robust interface, it’s difficult to imagine JLR designing a system that allows such information to be conveyed to the vehicle — making us feel like the key will just be there to make sure the SUV doesn’t stray far from its owner.

Land Rover said it is also considering allowing owners to livestream footage of their excursions using the Defender’s EVA 2.0 electrical architecture and Online Package.

We hope that happen, as we really want to see how all of this is going to work. Unless JLR also has a new Activity Key in the works, the Defender will be spotting itself during driverless overlanding via 3-D Scout. (Assuming this technology actually comes to market, of course.)

[Images: Jaguar Land Rover]

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