Weekly Brief: JLR's self-driving tech that can get down 'n' dirty

Most self-driving tech and advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) come with serious limitations these days.

They can detect lane dividers but not if it’s raining. They can deliver autonomous cruise control but only on an open highway. They can detect pedestrians and initiate braking but not in the fog or at night.

Jaguar Land Roveris on a mission to rub-out these asterisks. The British carmaker has demonstrated a range of innovative research technologies that would allow a future autonomous car to drive itself over any surface or terrain, at any time, under any condition. “Surface Identification and 3D Path Sensing” combines camera, ultrasonic, radar and LIDAR sensors to give the car a 360-degree view of the world around it, with sensors so advanced that the car could determine surface characteristics down to the width of a tyre, even in rain and falling snow, to plan its route.

Another research project, called “Overhead Clearance Assist”, uses stereo camera technology to scan for overhead obstructions like overhanging branches of a tree or a height barrier in a tunnel or parking garage. A third tech called “Terrain-based Speed Adaptation” uses cameras to sense bumpy terrain like potholes and even standing water. It then predicts the potential impact of these surfaces on the car’s ride and automatically adjusts speed to keep passengers comfortable.

JLR is mum on when the tech will make its way into street-ready cars but you can check out the tech in action in this video.

JLR also announced plans to create a fleet of more than 100 research vehicles over the next four years, to develop and test a wide range of connected and autonomous vehicle technologies. The initial focus is vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) communications and will get underway with a research car on motorways and urban roads near JLR headquarters in Coventry later this year.

In other news, UK tech firm Oxbotica unveiled a mobile autonomy software solution called Selenium. Those carmakers that aren’t developing self-driving tech of their own can integrate Selenium into their cars to enable a range of autonomous mobility tasks, including motion control, braking, calibration, navigation, static and dynamic obstacle detection. It’s like Britain’s software version of Cruise Automotive, which General Motors acquired for more than $1Bn (£758M) earlier this year.

Ford helped 3D-mapping start-up Civil Maps raise $6.6M in funding. Civil Maps transforms the deluge of data generated by LIDAR and vehicle sensors into meaningful map information for self-driving cars. More importantly, its machine-readable maps claim to have an extremely light data footprint, meaning that cars can glean a lot without burdening their own data storage.

Rumours swirled about last week that Octo Telematics, a leading insurance telematics firm, is seeking acquisition bids from the likes of Google, IBM, Continental and Bosch. Bloomberg reported that the company is seeking an outright sale price of about $2Bn. The company is also considering an initial public offering at the same valuation this September.

Express Drive, the short-term car-sharing solution from General Motors and Lyft, is expanding to California and Colorado. Think of Express Drive as the all-electric-vehicle version of Zipcar; the new launch in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Denver will include the 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV and the extended-range electric 2016 Chevrolet Volt. Current markets are Chicago, Boston, Washington D.C. and Baltimore.

Finally, have you caught the Pokémon Go craze? If so, keep your car out of it. News circulated last week that a former US marine slammed his car into a tree while trying to catch Lapras, a turtle-shelled blue sea creature, on his smartphone. Thankfully the 28-year-old was unhurt; the tree and the car were not. Nintendo, it’s time you updated the app so that it disables itself when a smartphone GPS and gyroscope detect speeds above a few miles per hour.

The Weekly Brief is a roundup of the week’s top telematics news, combining TU-Automotive analysis with information from industry press releases.


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