Jaguar Land Rover Developing All-Terrain Autonomous SUV

Jaguar Land Rover is developing off-road, self-driving SUVs through a venture called Cortex — a $5 million project designed to explore all-terrain, and all-weather autonomous vehicle capabilities.

The company is deploying “5D” technology to enable Level 4 and 5 off-road automation, which means the SUV would be able to adapt to sudden changes with equal or greater ability as a human driver would.

Combining acoustic, video, radar, light detection and distance sensing through Lidar — this is the 5D technique — data is uploaded and processed in real-time, improving the vehicle’s awareness of its environment.

In addition, machine-learning technology enables the AV to learn from its environment, as well as the changing driving conditions that could occur with those changes. This allows the vehicle to handle any weather condition on any terrain.

According to the US Department of Transportation’s automated driving safety guidelines, a vehicle with high automation (Level 4) can operate independently in specific environments such as urban environments or motorways, without any driver intervention, and at Level 5 — full automation — the vehicle can complete a journey without any human intervention.

“Self-driving is an inevitability for the automotive industry and ensuring that our autonomous offering is the most enjoyable, capable and safe is what drives us to explore the boundaries of innovation,” Chris Holmes, Jaguar’s connected and autonomous vehicle research manager, wrote in a May 30 statement. “It’s important that we develop our self-driving vehicles with the same capability and performance customers expect from all Jaguars and Land Rovers.”

The Cortex program was developed in collaboration with the University of Birmingham and announced as part of Innovate UK’s third round of connected and autonomous vehicle funding program in March.

Researchers will develop the off-road AV technology through algorithm development, sensor optimization and physical testing on off-road tracks in the UK, the company noted.

In March, Jaguar Land Rover announced it was partnering with Waymo, the AV development branch of Google parent company Alphabet to offer a luxury, self-driving SUV based on the iconic car company’s I-PACE design, which will start testing later this year in anticipation of creating a ride-sharing fleet of about 20,000 vehicles.

This new self-driving design is based on Jaguar’s all electric I-PACE SUV. To that vehicle, Waymo, will add its own self-driving features, including artificial intelligence and an array of sensors, such as the company’s Lidar technology.

Meanwhile, researchers at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) have developed a navigation framework called MapLite, which relies more on machine learning to navigate roads based on similar environments it has driven through before.

The project’s aim is to expand the variety of roads that the vehicle can handle — the ultimate aspiration being a system that performs as well as mapped systems but with a much wider range.

In the race to develop the technology, Jaguar may still have the edge: MapLite isn’t yet reliable enough for mountain roads, as it doesn’t account for dramatic changes in elevation.

Nathan Eddy is a filmmaker and freelance journalist based in Berlin. Follow him on Twitter @dropdeaded209.

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