Damage caused by potholes is estimated to cost UK drivers £2.8bn every year. But clever new ‘Pothole Alert’ technology from Jaguar Land Rover could help prevent punctures, wheel damage and even road accidents.
Currently fitted to Range Rover Evoque and Discovery Sport test cars, the system uses sensors to profile the road surface. It then adjusts the stiffness of the car’s MagneRide dampers to take account of potholes, raised manholes and other imperfections, giving passengers a more comfortable ride.
The data gathered by Pothole Alert can then be shared with other road users via the cloud to build up an ever-changing map of road conditions. And JLR is also working with Coventry City Council, sharing the data with its road authorities and potentially speeding up the process of repairs.
At the moment, the system is essentially ‘reactive’ to road conditions. But the next stage is to make it ‘active’ by using a forward-facing digital camera. Global Connected Car Director at JLR, Dr Mike Bell, explains: “At the moment the most accurate data comes from when the car has driven over the pothole or manhole. So we are also researching how we could improve the measurement and accuracy of pothole detection by scanning the road ahead, so the car could predict how severe they are before the vehicle gets near them.
“Ultimately, sensing the road ahead and assessing hazards is a key building block on our journey to the autonomous car. In the future, we are looking to develop systems that could automatically guide a car around potholes without the car leaving its lane and causing a danger to other drivers. If the pothole hazard was significant enough, safety systems could slow or even stop the car to minimize the impact. This could all help make future autonomous driving a safe and enjoyable reality.”
Councillor Rachel Lancaster of Coventry City Council added: “As part of our ‘Smart Cities’ strategy, we will be investigating how Jaguar Land Rover’s Pothole Alert system could supply us with data in real-time from thousands of connected cars right across our road network. Having this kind of extra information might allow us to further improve our maintenance programmes, which would save the taxpayer money.”