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Land Rover Connected Convoy

Jaguar Land Rover takes self-driving cars off-road

Land Rover Connected ConvoyJaguar Land Rover is working on advanced technology that will allow autonomous cars to offer self-driving functionality on all surfaces and terrains.

The firm’s Autonomous All Terrain Driving Project will allow self-driving cars to work “in the widest range of real life, on- and off-road driving environments” such as grass, gravel, sand and snow.

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Current self-driving cars require quality surfaces and clear road markings to function correctly: JLR doesn’t want to limit future highly autonomous and fully autonomous tech to the tarmac. If you’re using self-driving tech on the motorway, reckons JLR, you should be able to use it all the way to your destination – even if it’s up a rough road or gravel track.

And even if you don’t want the car to take over fully autonomously, it should be intelligent enough to give you educated suggestions about the best way to tackle what’s ahead.

The project lends itself to the off-road focus of Land Rover, which has given a world-first demonstration of an ‘Off-Road Connected Convoy’: two vehicles hooked up via car-to-car technology, so the lead vehicle can send messages back to the second car, including which settings to use.

Ideal for safaris, reckons the firm, when only the lead driver is likely to be an experienced off-roader.

JLR head of research Tony Harper says the firm’s 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 maker their way safely through any terrain or driving situation.

“We are already world-leaders in all-terrain technologies: these research projects will extend that lead still further.”

Next-generation sensors

Connected_convoy_02

A new generation of autonomous sensors is required for JLR to achieve this, but the firm is working on them. They include ‘surface identification and 3D path sensing’, that links up camera, ultrasonic, radar and LIDAR sensors.

This gives the car a 360 degree view, one so accurate the car is able to plot a route to a tyre’s width, even over rain and snow. The car scans five metres ahead so can react to any surface changes, slowing the vehicle if necessary.

Such forward-scanning ‘terrain-based speed adaptation’ means the vehicle can also change speed if the road becomes rough and bumpy, making things comfier for passengers: it’s intelligent enough to know the potential ‘bumpiness’ of surfaces ahead so will always choose the correct speed.

The 360 degree view also ensures an autonomous Land Rover won’t whack into any overhanging branches or overhead barriers…

Google's self-driving cars can now beep at other road users

Google’s self-driving cars can now beep at other road users

Google's self-driving cars can now beep at other road users

In a bid to prevent another crash involving one of its self-driving cars, Google has been working on fitting them with their own horns – and making sure they understand when to use them.

Unlike the majority of human drivers, the self-driving cars won’t use the horn when it gets impatient with another motorist, but to alert them of its presence.

They could even be used when approaching a pedestrian who hasn’t noticed them – 34 of its self-driving cars run entirely on electricity, after all.

The firm’s May autonomous car report explains: “Our self-driving cars aim to be polite, considerate, and only honk when it makes driving safer for everyone.

“During testing, we taught our vehicles to distinguish between potentially tricky situations and false positives, i.e. the difference between a car facing the wrong way during a three-point turn, and one that’s about to drive down the wrong side of the road.”

It’s understood that engineers have been teaching the cars two types of beeps – either two short blasts as a friendly warning, or a longer one in more urgent situations.

The report added: “Our goal is to teach our cars to honk like a patient, seasoned driver. As we become more experienced honkers, we hope our cars will also be able to predict how other drivers respond to a beep in different situations”

Now that’ll be interesting to see. How does a driver act when experiencing road rage with a driverless car?

Google's self-driving cars can now beep at other road users

Google's self-driving cars can now beep at other road users

Google's self-driving cars can now beep at other road users

In a bid to prevent another crash involving one of its self-driving cars, Google has been working on fitting them with their own horns – and making sure they understand when to use them.

Unlike the majority of human drivers, the self-driving cars won’t use the horn when it gets impatient with another motorist, but to alert them of its presence.

They could even be used when approaching a pedestrian who hasn’t noticed them – 34 of its self-driving cars run entirely on electricity, after all.

The firm’s May autonomous car report explains: “Our self-driving cars aim to be polite, considerate, and only honk when it makes driving safer for everyone.

“During testing, we taught our vehicles to distinguish between potentially tricky situations and false positives, i.e. the difference between a car facing the wrong way during a three-point turn, and one that’s about to drive down the wrong side of the road.”

It’s understood that engineers have been teaching the cars two types of beeps – either two short blasts as a friendly warning, or a longer one in more urgent situations.

The report added: “Our goal is to teach our cars to honk like a patient, seasoned driver. As we become more experienced honkers, we hope our cars will also be able to predict how other drivers respond to a beep in different situations”

Now that’ll be interesting to see. How does a driver act when experiencing road rage with a driverless car?

Volvo XC90 Drive Me test vehicle

Car insurance premiums to plummet as self-driving cars cut accidents 80%

Volvo XC90 Drive Me test vehicleVolvo is warning the car insurance industry of “seismic challenges” as self-driving cars’ ability to eliminate car crashes is expected to see premium prices plummet.

An 80% reduction in car crashes is expected by 2035 – but even by 2020, $20 billion (£13.5 billion) could be wiped off car insurance premiums, says research by Swiss Re and HERE.

As car insurance premiums generate more than 40% of all non-life insurance premiums – the biggest single slice – Volvo is thus warning the insurance industry of significant challenges to its current business model.

“The medium-to-long-term impact on the insurance industry is likely to be significant,” Volvo Cars president and chief executive Håkan Samuelsson will say at a seminar in London today. “Autonomous drive technology is the single most important advance in automotive safety to be seen in recent years.”

Peter Shaw, chief executive at Thatcham Research, adds: “Without doubt, crash frequency will… dramatically reduce. We’ve already seen this with the adoption of Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) on many new cars.

“Research in the US by NHTSA predicts that by 2035, as a result of autonomous and connected cars, crashes will be reduced by 80 per cent. Additionally, if a crash unfortunately can’t be avoided, then the impact speed will also drop as a result of the system’s performance – reducing the severity of the crash.”

The question is, how will the car insurance industry respond to protect its business model?

Self-driving Volvos in London from 2017

Volvo XC90 Drive Me test vehicle

Volvo will next year begin an Autonomous Drive (AD) trial in London: the Drive Me London project will see up to 100 AD self-driving cars on the UK capital’s roads.

There remain legal and regulatory challenges for the roll-out of autonomous cars though, added Samuelsson. “The automotive industry cannot do this on its own. We need the government’s help.

“It is essential that car makers work with the government to put in place laws and regulations that allow us to get these cars on the road as soon as possible and start saving lives.”

Volvo appears to have the ear of the UK government here. Sajid Javid, UK Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, said: “Driverless cars will see our journeys become faster, cleaner and safer. The UK is leading the way in developing the technology needed to make this a reality thanks to our world-class research base, and these types of trials will become increasingly common.

“Such advances in technology prove the fourth industrial revolution is just around the corner, and our determination to be at the forefront is why we are attracting top names from across the globe for real-world testing.”

Samuelsson will today officially state that he looks forward to working with the UK government to ensure that this technology can be introduced as soon as possible.

“Volvo has a vision that no one will be killed or seriously injured in a new Volvo by 2020,” he will add. “Autonomous drive technology is a key tool in helping us achieve this aim.”

Video: how does a self-driving Volvo work?

Volvo IntelliSafe Auto Pilot interface

Video: How does a Volvo self-driving car work?

So how will self-driving cars actually work? This video reveals Volvo’s vision…

Ford Fusion autonomous car

Will Ford help Google build a self-driving car?

Ford Fusion autonomous carFord and Google are to announce a joint venture that will see the U.S. car maker build Google’s next-generation autonomous self-driving cars, reports suggest.

Automotive News understands negotiations have been underway for some time and an announcement may come as soon as the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas next month.

Ford CEO Mark Fields will hold a press conference at CES 2016 on 5 January – along with product chief Raj Nair, R&D vice president Ken Washington and connected vehicles and services chief Don Butler.


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Google’s leadership team already has close connections to Ford: former CEO Alan Mulally, who led the firm to safety during the economic crisis, joined the Google board just days after leaving Ford in 2014.

John Krafcik, a former Ford chief engineer who developed cars such as the top-selling Expedition, is currently CEO of the Google Self-Driving Car Project.

Google: not a car maker

Such a contract manufacturing deal with Ford would make sense for Google, which in recent months has moved away from the idea of becoming a full auto maker.

Instead of making a pure ‘Google Car’, the firm instead wants to use its advanced autonomous software on self-driving versions of cars developed by experienced car manufacturers.

This would require significantly less upfront investment and allow firms to concentrate on their own areas of expertise.

For this reason, any Google deal with Ford may be non-exclusive, allowing Google to partner with other car firms too.

Ford already testing autonomous cars

Earlier this month, Ford received a permit to test its fully autonomous Fusion Hybrid on public roads in California.

The automaker said this was part of a 10-year autonomous vehicle development program: more than 100 engineers, researchers and scientists are currently working at the Ford Research and Innovation Centre Palo Alto – making it one of the largest car maker R&D bases in the region.

8 in 10 employees come from the tech sector, says Ford.

“Our Palo Alto team has grown significantly this year, using research and innovation to explore and develop future mobility solutions,” said Mark Fields, Ford president and CEO.

“We’re attracting top talent from around the world to join our team in Silicon Valley, including employees from local technology companies and universities who want to make people’s lives better by changing the way the world moves.”