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Jaguar Land Rover sets up ‘living lab’ to test autonomous cars

Car manufacturer invests £5.5m in a 41-mile ‘living laboratory’ to test and develop connected and autonomous vehicle technology

Jaguar Land Rover has announced a £5.5m investment in what it calls a ‘living laboratory’ – a 41-mile test corridor on public roads to support the development of connected and autonomous vehicle (CAV) technology.

Located around Coventry and Solihull, the UK Connected Intelligent Transport Environment (UK-CITE) will be used to evaluate new systems in real-world driving conditions.

The car manufacturer plans to install new roadside communications equipment along the entire route to test vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure systems on a fleet of 100 connected and highly automated cars, including a number of its own research vehicles.

The fleet will put four different connectivity technologies through their paces, sharing information at high speed between cars, and between cars and roadside infrastructure such as traffic lights or overhead gantries.

These will be 4G long-term evolution (LTE), dedicated short-range communications (DSRC), a more advanced version of LTE known as LTE-V, and local Wi-Fi hotspots.

Besides Jaguar Land Rover, others to come on board are Visteon, Siemens, Coventry City Council, WMG, the University of Warwick, HORIBA MIRA, Coventry University and Vodafone. The project is being part-funded by a £3.41m grant from Innovate UK – taken from the government’s £100m fund for CAV technology.

“This real-life laboratory will allow Jaguar Land Rover’s research team and project partners to test new connected and autonomous vehicle technologies on five different types of roads and junctions,” said Jaguar Land Rover’s director of research and technology, Wolfgang Epple.

“Similar research corridors already exist in other parts of Europe, so this test route is exactly the sort of innovation infrastructure the UK needs to compete globally.  

“The connected and autonomous vehicle features we will be testing will improve road safety, enhance the driving experience, reduce the potential for traffic jams and improve traffic flow. These technologies will also help us meet the increasing customer demand for connected services while on the move.”

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Jaguar Land Rover believes connected technologies will be a key enabler for intelligent transport systems, helping authorities to monitor and manage traffic flow and providing vehicles with guidance to optimise their route.

For example, to improve traffic flow, connected cars would be able to communicate and co-operate to make lane changes more efficient and safe, while technologies such as co-operative adaptive cruise control – already tested by a number of other manufacturers – would make better use of road space by enabling cars to follow each other in a convoy, known as platooning.

Other applications under test will be over-the-horizon warnings, a potential new system in which messages that are currently flashed onto overhead gantries – such as speed limit reductions in case of fog – are instead sent directly to the car, saving about £1m in installation and maintenance costs for roadside infrastructure.

“A well-informed driver is a safer driver, while an autonomous vehicle will need to receive information about the driving environment ahead,” said Epple. “The benefits of smarter vehicles communicating with each other and their surroundings include a car sending a warning that it is braking heavily or stopping in a queue of traffic or around a bend.

“This will enable an autonomous car to take direct action and respond. Drivers would receive a visual and audible warning that another car is causing a hazard out of sight or over the horizon.”

A similar emergency services warning system would potentially identify an approaching connected blue light vehicle before the driver was aware of flashing lights or sirens – something that has been identified as a source of stress for drivers – and warn them well in advance.

“If we can inform the driver, or the autonomous car, much earlier that an emergency vehicle is approaching, we can ensure that the best decisions are made to move the vehicle out of the way safely and conveniently to let the emergency vehicle pass by,” said Epple.

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