Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) is working on a concept car that uses sensors and cameras to pick up obstacles such as potholes, and subsequently adjust the suspension to handle them as smoothly as possible.
At the same time, using cloud-based systems, the car will share data gleaned by sensors in its suspension and offer it to other enabled road users so they can slow down or swerve, and alert the local council to get a repair team down there to sort it out. That's ambitious.
JLR calls it “predicting potholes on the road to autonomous driving”. The experiment will be based around a Range Rover Evoque test car with road surface sensing technology including a forward-facing stereo digital camera.
In this model, the camera will scan the road, and feed data to on-board computers that can alert the on-the-fly MagneRide semi-active magnetic damper system — the latter is already on numerous road cars — that responds to road conditions through inputs from body- and wheel-motion sensors.
The Mercedes-Benz S-Class flagship does something similar, giving it the ability to read the road ahead and brace the dampers for any harsh impacts.
“At the moment the most accurate data comes from when the car has driven over the pothole or manhole”, said JLR’s Global Connected Car director Mike Bell. “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," Bell added.
“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 minimise the impact.”
In the meantime, the company also plans to take the information gleaned from the memory banks, informed by the damper system, and share it freely in the cloud. In other words, it will record road problems and post these findings publicly to other cars, perhaps on nifty futuristic, massive head-up displays such as this one.
“While this gives our customers a more comfortable ride, we think there is a huge opportunity to turn the information from these vehicle sensors into ‘big data’ and share it for the benefit of other road users,” Bell said.
“This could help prevent billions of pounds of vehicle damage and make road repairs more effective.”
Jaguar Land Rover’s research team will also be working with partner Coventry City Council to understand how road profile information could be shared with road authorities, and exactly what data would be most useful for their roads maintenance teams to identify and prioritise repairs.
The cost of vehicle damage caused by potholes in the UK is estimated at £2.8bn every year.