Jaguar tracks over rough ground

Jaguar Land Rover’s multi-million pound Autonomous all-terrain driving research project is developing a range of technologies which enable off-road and multi-terrain autonomous driving.

Its next-generation sensing systems will combine camera, ultrasonic, radar and LIDAR to give the car a 360 degree view of the world, and enable it to determine surface characteristics to plan its route.

Tony Harper, head of research, Jaguar Land Rover, said, ‘The key enabler for autonomous driving on any terrain is to give the car the ability to sense and predict the 3D path it is going to drive through. This means being able to scan and analyse both the surface to be driven on, as well as any hazards above and to the sides of the path ahead. This might include car park barriers, tree roots and boulders or overhanging branches, as well as the materials and topography to be driven on.’

Ultrasonic sensors can identify surface conditions by scanning up to five metres 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. This will optimise all-terrain performance, without loss of momentum or control.

To complete the 3D path, Overhead Clearance Assist uses stereo camera technology to scan ahead for overhead obstructions, while sensors can also be used to scan the roughness of the road or track ahead, identifying and reacting to everything from potholes to standing water.

Tony continued, ‘Our all-terrain autonomy research isn’t just about the car driving itself on a motorway or in extreme off-road situations. It’s about helping both the driven and autonomous car make their way safely through any terrain or driving situation.

‘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. In the future, if you enjoy the benefits of autonomous lane keeping on a motorway at the start of your journey, we want to ensure you can use this all the way to your destination, even if this is via a rough track or gravel road.

‘So whether it’s a road under construction with cones and a contraflow, a snow-covered road in the mountains or a muddy forest track, this advanced capability would be available to both the driver and the autonomous car, with the driver able to let the car take control if they were unsure how best to tackle an obstacle or hazard ahead.’