It’s nature versus machine

We’ve seen fully autonomous driving technology used in a variety of different applications, from simple A-to-B cruising and people moving, to high-speed racing and performance. Now, Jaguar Land Rover is taking the robo chauffeurs off the beaten path as part of a new all-terrain self-driving research project.

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It’s called Project Cortex, and it promises Level 4 and Level 5 off-road automated driving, exploring the possibility of “all-terrain, all-weather autonomous capability.”

With self-driving technology frequently making headlines these days, it makes sense for a company like Jaguar Land Rover, which is well-known for its off-road-worthy lineup of SUVs, to combine its rough-stuff know-how with autonomous tech. Now, we’re getting our first look at just such an effort, including the above-featured two-minute, seven-second video, which shows some of JLR’s finest tackling the terrain, highlighting how the onboard features respond to the surrounding environment.

It’s called Project Cortex, and it promises Level 4 and Level 5 off-road automated driving, exploring the possibility of “all-terrain, all-weather autonomous capability.”

To make it all work, JLR says it’s implementing something calling 5D technology. Basically, each outfitted SUV comes with a variety of sensors and systems, including acoustic, video, radar, and lidar, all of which gather pertinent data and feeds it to a central processor, which then figures out the right responses for throttle, braking, and steering inputs. The system also includes machine learning capabilities to help to make the most of it and self-improve over time.

The result, JLR contends, is a system that will be able to handle “any weather condition” and any terrain, including “dirt, rain, ice, snow, or fog.”

“It’s important that we develop our self-driving vehicles with the same capability and performance customers expect from all Jaguars and Land Rovers,” said Chris Holmes, Connected and Autonomous Vehicle Research Manager at Jaguar. “Self-driving is an inevitability for the automotive industry and ensuring that our autonomous offering is the most enjoyable, capable, and safe is what drives us to explore the boundaries of innovation.”

Funding for this exploration comes to the tune of 3.7 million pounds, or $4.9 million at current exchange rates (05/30/2018). JLR is also partnering with the University of Birmingham to assist with development.

This latest autonomous project coincides with JLR’s continuing effort in the realm of all-electric powertrains, most notably with the new I-Pace SUV. Combine the two, and we could be seeing a rather lust-worthy high-end SUV.

Further Reading

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Press release

Jaguar Land Rover is developing off-road self-driving SUVs in project CORTEX
The £3.7m project is exploring all-terrain, all- weather autonomous capability
World-first ’5D’ technology is enabling Level 4 and 5 off-road automation
Coventry, UK, 30TH May 2018 – Jaguar Land Rover is developing autonomous cars capable of all-terrain, off-road driving in any weather condition.

The world-first ‘CORTEX’ project will take self-driving cars off-road, ensuring they are fully capable in any weather condition: dirt, rain, ice, snow or fog. As part of the project, a ‘5D’ technique combining acoustic, video, radar, light detection and distance sensing (LiDAR) data live in real-time is being engineered. Access to this combined data improves the awareness of the environment the car is in. Machine-learning enables the self-driving car to behave in an increasingly sophisticated way, allowing it to handle any weather condition on any terrain.

It’s important that we develop our self-driving vehicles with the same capability and performance customers expect from all Jaguars and Land Rovers. Self-driving is an inevitability for the automotive industry and ensuring that our autonomous offering is the most enjoyable, capable and safe is what drives us to explore the boundaries of innovation. CORTEX gives us the opportunity to work with some fantastic partners whose expertise will help us realise this vision in the near future.
CHRIS HOLMES
CONNECTED AND AUTONOMOUS VEHICLE RESEARCH MANAGER, JAGUAR
Jaguar Land Rover is developing fully- and semi-automated vehicle technologies, offering customers a choice of the level of automation, while maintaining an enjoyable and safe driving experience. This project forms part of the company’s vision to make the self-driving car viable in the widest range of real-life, on- and off-road driving environments and weather.

CORTEX will develop the technology through algorithm development, sensor optimisation and physical testing on off-road tracks in the UK. The University of Birmingham, with its world leading research in radar and sensing for autonomous platforms and Myrtle AI, machine learning experts, join the project. CORTEX was announced as part of Innovate UK’s third round of Connected and Autonomous Vehicle Funding in March 2018.

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