Jaguar Land Rover’s new system lets drivers use their smartphone to back up out of a parking space and make their way around obstacles.
James Bond’s remote-controlled car from the blockbuster hit “Tomorrow Never Dies” has become a reality. While it may not be an Ericsson phone in command, Jaguar Land Rover has unveiled a new prototype SUV that can be driven via a mobile app.
While it may seem a bit absurd at first glance, there are some practical use cases for it. Think about those times where you’ve been jammed in a parking spot and were unable to open the door because someone else was too close. Or, perhaps a time when it would have been much safer to be guided through a series of off-road obstacles when you weren’t inside. While a vast majority of the conversation on autonomous cars to date have been focused on the driver being behind the wheel, not as much has been centered around the user being outside of it.
In pretty the same fashion as a child would play with their RC toy car, Jaguar Land Rover’s latest system lets a driver turn a virtual steering wheel image on their smartphone’s screen, using their fingers to control maneuvering, accelerating, braking and ever gear shifting. The app, which employs the same sensors that its vehicles currently rely on for their autonomous parking features, enables a user to walk alongside their car at the top speed of 4mph, and within a range of about 30 feet.
Take rock crawling or bad weather, for example. Drivers can continually check ramp, approach and departure angles and allow precise positioning of the vehicle, as well as traverse slippery areas covered by ice and snow. The remote control function will only operate if the smart key can be detected, and will stop the vehicle if the driver ever moves out of range or gets too close.
Meanwhile, a second prototype was also revealed that is capable of doing its own 180-degree, multi-point turns. This should come as great news for those not so great at maneuvering their vehicle, especially on busy or narrow streets. According to the automaker, this driverless SUV could extricate itself from the most difficult situations by taking over gear selection, steering, braking and acceleration to complete as many forward and backwards movements necessary to get the job done. This is accomplished through a set of embedded sensors that assess the available space and avoid pedestrians or other objects in its way.
“Research into technologies like these won’t only help us deliver an autonomous car. They will help make real driving safer and more enjoyable. The same sensors and systems that will help an autonomous car make the right decisions, will assist the driver and enhance the experience to help prevent accidents. Autonomous car technologies will not take away the fun of driving,” explains Dr. Wolfgang Epple, Jaguar Land Rover Director of Research and Technology.
The company has even revealed a range of new road safety research projects that are being developed to reduce the number of accidents caused by drivers who are stressed, distracted and not concentrating on what lies ahead. By adopting technology typically used throughout sports, medicine and aerospace, the vehicle will be able to monitor a person’s heart rate, respiration and levels of brain activity through sensors embedded within the steering wheel.
What’s more, the UK-based team is looking into innovations that would diminish the amount of time the driver’s eyes are off the road while driving, and how to communicate with the driver via pulses through the accelerator pedal. The basis of this project is to see if a car could effectively read the brainwaves that indicate a driver is beginning to daydream, or feeling sleepy, whilst driving. An on-board computer will then assess whether someone is alert enough and emit vibration or warning sound accordingly.
“If brain activity indicates a daydream or poor concentration, then the steering wheel or pedals could vibrate to raise the driver’s awareness and re-engage them with driving,” Dr. Epple adds. “If Mind Sense does not detect a surge in brain activity following the car displaying a warning icon or sound, then it could display it again, or communicate with the driver in a different way, to ensure the driver is made aware of a potential hazard.”
Beyond that, Jaguar Land Rover is in the process of devising medical-grade sensors that will be hidden within the front seat, particularly for the Jaguar XJ luxury sedan. Monitoring the physical health of the driver could not only detect the onset of sudden and serious illness that may incapacitate them, but will enable the car to monitor stress levels. This would let the car help reduce stress, for instance by changing mood lighting, audio settings and climate control. And in future cars with self-driving capabilities, it could sense whether someone was having a seizure or a heart attack, and automatically take control of the wheel.