Jaguar Land Rover Australia boss says the group won’t let autonomous driving technology get in the way of driving pleasure.

JAGUAR LAND ROVER has revealed plans to test 100 vehicles fitted with different types of autonomous technology on UK roads over the next four years (read about this here) and more about Land Rover’s effort below. But local Jaguar Land Rover boss, Matthew Wiesner, told Practical Motoring the group won’t forsake driving pleasure.

“There are some views about autonomous vehicles and for Jaguar, which is a very performance oriented brand, it’s a driver’s car brand, and as a brand we’d have to be very careful of dumbing that down.

“But, does autonomous technology become an important technology within cars for commuting, you know, you’re stuck on the M5 and you’re just inching along at a few kilometres an hour then of course it makes sense. But, at the end of the day we build cars we want people to drive, not be driven in, and I think that attitude is alive and well across the business.”

And what about plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles for Jaguar and Land Rover? “The world is moving in this direction and there is a lot of working going on behind the scenes to work out which brand and model gets what and for Jaguar it’s a matter of going through what we’ve got and working out where to start [with the technology]. But there is a lot of excitement around EVs and plug-in EVs within our group,” Wiesner said.

Indeed, Wiesner believes both Jaguar and Land Rover could offer either plug-in hybrids or full electric vehicles in Australia, and for the record there is already a Range Rover Sport Hybrid available here. “We’re just getting our heads around, from a strategic business perspective, would be required as we peer into the future, because while there is still obviously a market for internal combustion engines, electric vehicle technology is out there and there’s greater developments coming.”

But, he added, that before electric vehicles take over from internal combustion engines there is still work to be done on infrastructure around charging stations and indeed the buying public. “You can’t just have charging stations scattered up and down the street,” Wiesner said. “And, if an electric car breaks down, what do you do? There is an enormous array of considerations when you start thinking about it.”

“Australians are reasonably early adopters of technology and especially if it’s packaged up in a way that’s pretty cool and interesting then I think there’s a good opportunity.”

Land Rover recently announced it was testing a range of autonomous all-terrain technologies that, as Wiesner said, can assist the driver rather than do the work for them. Accompanying the statement, Tony Harper, Head of Research at Jaguar Land Rover said: “Our all-terrain autonomy research isn’t just about the car driving itself on a motorway or in extreme off-road situations. It’s about helping both the driven and autonomous car make their way safely through any terrain or driving situation.

“We don’t want to limit future highly automated and fully autonomous technologies to tarmac. When the driver turns off the road, we want this support and assistance to continue. In the future, if you enjoy the benefits of autonomous lane keeping on a motorway at the start of your journey, we want to ensure you can use this all the way to your destination, even if this is via a rough track or gravel road. So whether it’s a road under construction with cones and a contraflow, a snow-covered road in the mountains or a muddy forest track, this advanced capability would be available to both the driver and the autonomous car, with the driver able to let the car take control if they were unsure how best to tackle an obstacle or hazard ahead. We are already world-leaders in all-terrain technologies: these research projects will extend that lead still further.”

To assist with this, Harper said, Land Rover is working on next-generation sensors that can improve surface identification via camera, ultrasonic, radar and LIDAR sensors to give the car a 360 degree view of the world around it.

“The key enabler for autonomous driving on any terrain is to give the car the ability to sense and predict the 3D path it is going to drive through. This means being able to scan and analyse both the surface to be driven on, as well as any hazards above and to the sides of the path ahead. This might include car park barriers, tree roots and boulders or overhanging branches, as well as the materials and topography to be driven on,” Harper said.



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