While the Discovery Vision Concept unveiled at the recent New York auto show wasn’t universally appealing in its modern design aesthetic, it’s hard to argue with the incredible new technologies that were previewed on the showcar. Besides previewing the Land Rover brand’s future ‘leisure vehicle’ range, the Discovery Vision concept is also a testbed for a number of technological innovations.
Developed by a team led by Dr Wolfgang Epple, Director of Research and Technology at Jaguar Land Rover (JLR), the advanced 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 Epple. “These are the five themes that are leading the research we are undertaking at Jaguar Land Rover today.”
Epple, who joined JLR as Director of Product Programs in 2012 from Malaysian automaker Proton, concedes that while some of the technologies are just concepts, others “have real potential” to become commonplace on both Jaguar and Land Rover products in the future.
Predictive Terrain Response With Lasers
Besides the powerful laser diode headlamps with ‘intelligent object tracking’, one of the innovations using lasers is the next-generation ‘terrain response’ system, which predicts off-road conditions and water depth.
‘Predictive terrain scanning’, which uses infrared lasers in the front fog lamps to scan the ground in front of the vehicle, analyzes the type of terrain and automatically engages one of the four traction systems best equipped to deal with it. Similarly, ‘wade aid’ predicts water depth through the use of lasers, informing the driver of the feasibility of the intended wading maneuver even before the tires even get wet.
Drive Off-Road by ‘Remote Control’
Land Rover’s taken advantage of its all-terrain capabilities and reputation to bring the concept of off-road driving to the next level.
Driving off-road can be a lot of fun, but it has its challenges. If you’re a bit uneasy about the path you’ve chosen, the Discovery Vision Concept’s tech will also allow you to drive it without you in it, albeit at slow speeds.
JLR’s been working on ‘autonomous’ driving for nearly 20 years — the Jaguar XK was the first to market with Adaptive Cruise Control in 1996. But the Discovery Vision Concept showcases another step towards the company’s efforts to develop fully autonomous cars.
“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 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.”
The Discovery Vision Concept ‘all-terrain progress control’ system therefore allows for semi-autonomous off-road driving via 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.
This ‘remote control’ feature could also be used as a parking aid or when reversing up to a trailer. All very cool stuff.
Gaze Through The Transparent Hood
One of the more intriguing technological features is the ‘transparent bonnet’, which pairs cameras mounted in the grille with the head-up display (HUD) to create a virtually invisible hood, enabling drivers to see the terrain between the front axle and below the front of the vehicle. The augmented reality view will undoubtedly make navigating treacherous off-road terrain easier from inside the cabin. But there’s more to it.
The idea has relevance on the road, too. On a Jaguar, this new generation HUD 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.
HMI With ‘Smart’ Glass
Smart glass is used in the entire glasshouse of the Land Rover Discovery Vision Concept – in all the windows, the panoramic roof, and, allied to HUD technology, in the windshield.
Cameras in the car can project video images onto the smart glass or the HUD, enabling in-car information to be displayed and improving visibility around the vehicle. 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 Epple.
The smartphone-style user interface will be widely used in the motor industry: “Look around and it’s obvious most people know how to use a smartphone or tablet,” Epple says. “Tablet computers and smartphones 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 percent. This trend will continue.”
The doors and tailgate of the Discovery Vision Concept are all activated by gesture control, as are a number of other functions. “We recognize that it is substantially more intuitive to use gestures than to press a button or turn a switch,” Epple says.
Gesture control will become a reality on JLR vehicles in the near future. The controls recognize designated hand or finger movements, eliminating the chance of unintentionally triggering functions.
“Gesture control is only one of many interesting possibilities,” says 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 onboard the car. The Cloud offers the solution to next-generation voice recognition systems.”
Communicate With Other Drivers By Laser Guidance
As we move towards greater levels of autonomy, JLR recognizes 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 colors 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. The system can also project images onto roads and walls to help for parking or driving in congested spaces or to help the driver judge tight gaps between obstacles off-road.
Reducing Driver-Induced Errors
All of this technology has a common goal to reduce driver-induced errors, which JLR cites as the key reason for developing more intelligent vehicles. An astounding 99 percent 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 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 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.”
We’re looking forward to it.
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