It's another milestone in the quest for fully autonomous driving.
Last year, Land Rover unveiled the world's first ever self-driving Range Rover Sport as part of a $25 million government-funded project called UK Autodrive aiming to bring autonomous vehicles to British roads, which ends this month after a three-year program. Featuring Level 4 autonomy, the prototype can theoretically handle itself in any driving scenario but still requires a human driver behind the wheel ready to intervene just in case.
So far, testing has been carried out on closed tracks, but this doesn't represent how the technology responds to real-life situations. According to Land Rover, a prototype Range Rover Sport was recently unleashed onto the notoriously complicated Coventry Ring Road in the UK, where it successfully changed lanes, merged with traffic and exited junctions at the 40-mph speed limit without any input from the driver.
The high-performance Range Rover Sport was modified to include additional navigation sensors, radars and laser-based LIDAR, allowing it to autonomously handle roundabouts, traffic lights, pedestrians, cyclists and other vehicles on complicated roads. It can also park itself.
"The Coventry Ring Road is known for its complicated slip roads and exits. It makes for very challenging conditions, especially when under pressure in the rush hour", said Mark Cund, Jaguar Land Rover Autonomous Vehicle Research Manager. "Our self-driving car is not impacted by the same pressure, frustrations or fatigue that a driver may experience and so it's capable of turning a potentially very stressful situation into a completely stress-free one."
As part of the UK Autodrive initiative, Jaguar Land Rover engineers have also developed features that use the internet to connect vehicles to each other and to infrastructure such as traffic lights so that vehicles can detect accidents and traffic jams and alert other vehicles to reduce speed accordingly. But when will we start to see autonomous Range Rovers roaming the streets? Jaguar Land Rover is aiming to offer self-driving cars within 10 years.