Land Rover Austin would like to take you on a quick tour of Jaguar Land Rover’s Northwest Portland research lab where engineers are working to enhance the technologies and capabilities of future Land Rovers and other magnificent machines.
One of the awesome toys they have at the lab is a driving simulator that incorporates a giant wraparound screen that creates a highly realistic illusion of driving. Here JLR’s engineers can study whether new technologies they create improve the driving experience or become a hazard, taking your much needed attention away from the road.
The company announced plans for its Portland site in 2013 and opened the facility last summer, JLR’s only facility of its kind outside the United Kingdom. Inside their technological realm they are evaluating what people do while they drive as well as what more they could be doing to enhance their experience behind the wheel.
“I want to make use of the time rather than just be stuck in traffic,” said Matt Jones, JLR’s Portland chief.
Jaguar Land Rover moved into a 15,000-square-foot converted warehouse in the Pearl District last summer, and by fall it hopes to find another 25,000 square feet nearby to open a technology incubator. It’s hiring 50 more engineers to work with a dozen startups a year to develop new technologies and find ways to apply them to the auto industry.
Portland has a rapidly growing tech community but doesn’t have a lot of automotive experience. That’s fine with Jones, who moved here from the United Kingdom more than two years ago to open JLR’s Portland office.
JLR’s first Portland investment, a company called Vonsor, is the first startup to receive an investment in connection with JLR’s new program. It enables drivers to video their road trips and upload them to social media.
The simulator is definitely a fun and smart way to come up with new ideas, but Jones said thinking up new technology is sometimes as simple as setting up four office chairs to imagine what would be useful to drivers, and what would be more than they can handle.