You may be getting behind the wheel of a self-driving car even sooner than you expected. While media hype has suggested that we would all be in self-driving cars within a few years, the truth is that true self-driving vehicle technology is probably much further off. But that doesn’t mean that many of the advanced technologies that are being developed for eventual autonomous cars are similarly out of reach. Getting a car to drive itself isn’t a single problem that has one solution, it is actually dozens of problems that need to be solved one at a time, and car manufacturers are very quickly checking many of those problems off of their to-do list. It isn’t unrealistic to expect that many of these advancements will find their way into mass-produced cars within a few years
British automobile manufacturer Jaguar Land Rover took one step closer to that last week when they announced that they would begin testing a range of Connected and Autonomous Vehicle (CAV) technologies on select open roads in the UK. Over the next four years they will be developing a fleet of more than 100 specially developed research vehicles that will be testing out several different technologies developed by Jaguar Land Rover. The first of these cars will find itself on a 41-mile test route on working motorways and urban roads in and around Coventry and Solihull near the Jaguar Land Rover research facility by the end of this year.
The research will include testing several vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communication technologies that were created to allow cars to talk to each other. These cars would also be able to communicate with things like road signs, street lights and even emergency vehicles. This would allow these connected cars to be able to anticipate and warn drivers of upcoming changes to current driving and road conditions. Some of the other technologies being tested will allow for cars to assist drivers while adjusting to a narrowing lane of traffic or prevent rear end collisions due to accidental accelerations.
“Our connected and automated technology could help improve traffic flow, cut congestion and reduce the potential for accidents. We will also improve the driving experience, with drivers able to choose how much support and assistance they need. Even when an enthusiastic driver is fully focussed on enjoying the thrill of the open road, the new technology we are creating will still be working in the background to help keep them safe. Because the intelligent car will always be alert and is never distracted, it could guide you through road works and prevent accidents,” explained Jaguar Land Rover Head of Research, Tony Harper.
Jaguar Land Rover is only one of several global car manufacturers developing connected and autonomous vehicle technologies. While all of the systems being developed by Jaguar Land Rover are designed to work together, the centerpiece is clearly their Over the Horizon Warning technology. This research project will include testing a variety of radio signal transmitting devices that will allow cars to communicate any relevant data about upcoming road conditions from vehicle to vehicle. The system could notify drivers and autonomous cars of upcoming hazards and obstacles that are just over the horizon or around blind bends.
Not only could this technology be used to warn of upcoming road conditions like stopped cars or blocked lanes, but it could also warn drivers of nearby emergency vehicles that may not yet be in visual range. The Emergency Vehicle Warning system would allow ambulances, police cars or fire engines to be connected to a network of cars that would help drivers be aware of where they are coming from and when to pull off to avoid them. The car would notify drivers with an audible warning as well as a visual alert confirming the direction that the emergency vehicles are coming. This would obviously help those emergency services by minimizing delays, but it would also help prevent accidents caused by unaware drivers.
The Roadwork Assist technology leverages a forward-facing stereo camera to capture a 3D view of the road and combine it with advanced image processing software that will help the car recognize barriers and obstacles on the road. Not only will the system be able to detect upcoming roadwork, it will be able to locate a path through the construction sites and notify the driver of the changing road conditions. It will also offer the driver some minor steering assistance that will keep the car centered in the lane while they focus on any unexpected obstacles or detours.
The same 3D technology will also be used with their Safe Pull Away feature that prevents distracted drivers from mistakenly causing a low-speed collision. The stereo camera continuously monitors the area in the front of the car, taking note of any other vehicles, walls or poles. If the car receives signals to accelerate or select a gear that will lead to a collision then the brakes will be automatically applied and the driver warned with an alarm. The hope is that this feature will help prevent the type of low-speed collisions that are a common cause of accidents, including hitting parked cars, driving into garage doors and bumping walls.
All of these features will soon be as common as technology like self-parking cars, early warning alarms and on-windscreen navigation alerts that are starting to appear in most newer car models around the world. It is going to take decades to build a network of roads that allow for worry-free autonomous driving cars, but that doesn’t mean that the technology being developed by car manufacturers today won’t be beneficial to drivers before that happens. Incrementally introducing these types of technology is both a smart way to condition drivers to be used to cars having some sort of autonomy as well as allow the infrastructure needed to support self-driving cars to be put into place. Would you be interested in a self-driving car? Discuss further over in the Self-Driving Jaguar Land Rover forum at 3DPB.com.[Source/Images: Jaguar]