The “Autonomous” Land Rover

Jaguar Land Rover has just announced its plans to accelerate its development of semi-autonomous cars.  A fleet of more than 100 research vehicles will be created over the next four years to develop its “autonomous and connected technology.”

However, these vehicles won’t be fully autonomous, and will instead focus on more basic features.   JLR is developing four key skills for its cars. These include the ability to recognize potential obstacles using a forward-facing camera; brake automatically before a potential collision; communicate car-to-car to share information; and recognize when emergency service vehicles are approaching. These are certainly useful features, but they’re a far cry from the advances in self-driving tech made by companies like Google.

Land Rover’s lead engineer for the project, Matt Reed, explains how the connected vehicles communicate via Dedicated Short Range Communications (DSRC) boxes installed in each SUV to successfully off-road.

“Currently, what we’ve got is two DSRC boxes from a company called Cohda Wireless and they use their software put into the car by their vehicle CAN Bus [network],” Reed explained. “The CAN Bus is a vehicle-level network, which all current OEMs [Original Equipment Manufacturers] have, which contains lots of the driving data. You’ll have everything from ignition the car is in to things like the vehicle speed, the direction of travel, the GPS location, all of that information, which is used by the vehicle’s internal module to do everything from cruise control to turning your lights on and off.”

“These boxes are connected to that network and we fix the signals that we want to look at, such as vehicle articulation, vehicle speeds and location, and then using that network, we pick off the information, which could be transmitted to a second car,” he continued. “The transmission is through those boxes and it’s using a 5.9 GHz DSRC.”

The research will take place on a 41-mile test route in the Midlands near the company’s headquarters, but could eventually move onto public roads. Earlier this year, the UK government said it wants driverless cars to be able to be insured like normal vehicles by 2020, essentially clearing them for use on regular roads.

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