On the eve of the New York International Auto Show, Jaguar Land Rover has previewed some of the advanced research being developed to deliver intelligent on- and off-road driving for customers of tomorrow.
The technologies include remote control off-road driving, predictive infrared laser scanning, gesture and voice control activation, smart glass that transforms the connectivity of the interior experience, and semi-autonomous driving, both on- and off-road.
"The car of the future will become more capable, cleaner, more connected, more desirable and more intelligent," says Dr Wolfgang Epple, Director of Research and Technology at Jaguar Land Rover. "These are the five themes that are leading the research we are undertaking at Jaguar Land Rover today.
"We are showcasing some very exciting new technologies on the Discovery Vision Concept car. While some have real potential and others are just concepts, both Jaguar and Land Rover will continue to set new standards and continue to grow by bringing these new technologies and innovations to our customers."
Next generation Terrain Response predicts off-road conditions and water depth
For the Land Rover brand, a priority is to push the boundaries of its renowned class-leading breadth of capabilities.
The next generation of Land Rover's iconic multi-mode terrain-tackling system Terrain Response could be enhanced by predictive Terrain Scanning, which uses infrared lasers in the Discovery Vision Concept's front fog lamps to scan the ground in front of the vehicle.
These sensors analyse the type of terrain about to be traversed and assess and predict the vehicle's reaction to it. The vehicle can then automatically engage the appropriate traction system to best deal with the terrain ahead. A map of the terrain can be displayed on the high-definition cluster screen, providing the driver with a visual reference.
Wade Aid takes Land Rover's current Wade Sensing technology a stage further by predicting the depth of water before the car enters. A new sensory system would use lasers to judge the depth of a stream or pond and let the driver know the feasibility of the intended wading manoeuvre even before the tyres get wet.
Drive off-road by 'Remote Control'
Jaguar Land Rover is working hard on autonomous vehicles that, if the driver wishes, can drive themselves. "We see the autonomous car taking away the boring, the tedious, the routine part of the journey while allowing the driver to actively stay in contact, do some work, or relax with the vehicle's infotainment system," says Dr Epple. "But when the driver wants to enjoy the driving experience, our new driver assistance systems will give them more because customers will still want to be engaged with their vehicle. A smarter car should not take away driving pleasure - it should enhance the driver's experience on- and off-road."
These driving aids include All-Terrain Progress Control, which allows for semi-autonomous off-road driving at slow speed. It is a low-speed all-terrain cruise control that vectors torque to maintain a steady speed chosen by the driver. This system can be used with the driver in the vehicle, or in an extreme off-road situation, the driver may decide that it is safer and easier to inch the vehicle over obstacles from an outside vantage point by Remote Control. This allows the driver to become his or her own off-road spotter, controlling the vehicle at very low speed from outside the car, using a tablet or smartphone, or a rotary control removed from the vehicle itself. Remote Control could also be used as a parking aid or when reversing up to a trailer.
"Jaguar Land Rover's journey to 'autonomous' driving began nearly 20 years ago when Jaguar was the first to market with Adaptive Cruise Control in the XK in 1996," says Dr Epple. "Today we already offer a range of driver assistance technologies* that enable driving with optimum efficiency and reduce the potential for accidents."
Reducing driver-induced errors is the key reason for developing more intelligent vehicles, as 99 per cent of accidents are caused by driver error.
"The new driver assistance technologies we will roll out in the coming years have the potential to reduce accidents to zero, but we will ensure the excitement and enjoyment of driving will not be taken away as cars become more autonomous," says Dr Epple. "An intelligent Jaguar or Land Rover future vehicle will not take away driving pleasure. Instead it will enhance the driver's experience and suit the driver's mood or needs on- and off-road. The intelligent car can take away the less stimulating parts of the journey, but it will not simply perform a robotic function.
"Our vision is to offer a choice of an engaged or autonomous drive," adds Dr Epple. "Ultimately this means the car could drive itself if the driver chooses, and have intelligent systems that can be adjusted for a more engaging and involved drive. A Jaguar Land Rover Intelligent vehicle will become a reality within the next 10 years."
Radical Human Machine Interface (HMI) includes 'Smart' glass
Smart glass is used in the entire glasshouse of the Land Rover Discovery Vision Concept car - in all the windows, the panoramic roof and, allied to Head-Up Display (HUD) technology, in the windscreen.
Dr Epple believes it offers numerous advantages, including in-car information and improved visibility. Cameras in the car can project video images onto the smart glass or the HUD. These can make awkward manoeuvres, such as reversing around a corner, much easier. The 'smart' glass can also carry switchgear, which only becomes visible when a finger gets close to the glass.
"If you are driving past a landmark like the Empire State Building, you could imagine a Wikipedia page appearing on the smart glass, and a rear seat passenger swiping that information from the window to their infotainment screen or tablet," says Dr Epple.
The smart phone-style user interface will be widely used in the motor industry: "Look around and it's obvious most people know how to use a smart phone or tablet," says Dr Epple. "Tablet computers and smart phones will merge with the car to provide both the functionality of the device plus the functionality of the car's control systems. This will have the happy effect of greatly simplifying car interiors. With the recent Range Rover and Range Rover Sport, our designers pushed extremely hard to reduce the number of buttons and switches by more than 50 per cent. This trend will continue."
The Discovery Vision Concept HMI includes gesture and voice control
The doors and tailgate of the Discovery Vision Concept are all activated by gesture control, as are a number of other functions. "We recognise that it is substantially more intuitive to use gestures than to press a button or turn a switch," Dr Epple says.
Gesture control will become a reality on Jaguar Land Rover vehicles in the near future. The controls recognise designated hand or finger movements, eliminating the chance of unintentionally triggering functions.
"Gesture control is only one of many interesting possibilities," says Dr Epple. "In the next 25 years we will use gaze and biometrics to interact with the vehicle. Speech control will also play a more important role. The almost unlimited processing power of The Cloud will enable more sophisticated algorithms for speech recognition and interaction than could ever exist on board the car. The Cloud offers the solution to next-generation voice recognition systems."
'Transparent Bonnet' virtual imaging concept improves visibility and positioning of car
The numerous driver assistance technologies all showcased on the Discovery Vision Concept are created to improve the ease, enjoyment and safety of driving. One of the most intriguing is the Transparent Bonnet, virtual imaging concept vastly improving the driver's visibility at the front of the car.
Cameras under the vehicle's grille send video of the terrain being traversed to the Head-Up Display in the windscreen, allowing the driver to see terrain normally obscured by the bonnet and engine, and to see the direction of the front wheels.
The idea has relevance on the road, too. On a Jaguar, this new generation Head-Up Display could improve performance driving by projecting road guidance or the racing line in front of the car, ideal for track work. It also helps a driver 'see around corners', as the camera can give the driver a preview of what's upcoming.
Laser guidance allows communication with other drivers
As we move towards greater levels of autonomy, Jaguar Land Rover recognises it is important to find new ways to communicate visually with other road users.
The Discovery Vision Concept features Laser Referencing, which uses laser light tuned to specific colours in the visible spectrum to project images onto the road that can be seen by both the driver and other road users. This has numerous applications, including projecting warning triangles onto the tarmac behind the car for other motorists to see in the event of a stoppage or in fog. The system can also project images onto roads and walls to help parking or driving in congested spaces, or to help the driver judge tight gaps between obstacles off-road.
Waterproof leather upholstery and practical wood veneer floor
The first Range Rover and early Land Rovers were renowned for their functional 'hose out' interiors. Though hardly appropriate for a premium vehicle, they were certainly practical, especially after tough off-roading in muddy conditions.
The Discovery Vision Concept has an interior that is premium - and highly practical. Design Director and Chief Creative Officer Gerry McGovern and his team chose specially developed Foglizzo leather for the upholstery. It not only looks and feels luxurious, it's also water proof and dirt proof. The unusual wood veneer floor is described by McGovern as 'surprisingly practical' and easier to clean than conventional carpet.
Also highly innovative is the 'fold and slide' seating configuration, which allows for limousine-like four seats, or a five, six- or seven-seat configuration.
Discovery Vision Concept to Star at New York Show
The Discovery Vision Concept will be one of the stars of the Jaguar Land Rover stand at the New York International Auto Show, which opens to the public on April 18.
*Driver assistance technologies that feature on current Jaguar and Land Rover products include adaptive cruise control, intelligent emergency braking, lane departure warning, park assist and wade sensing.