A few years back I had the opportunity to drive—with, I am not ashamed to admit, really white knuckles—the Poison Spider Mesa trail in Moab, Utah. The good news for me was that I was behind the wheel of a Dodge Power Wagon. The not-so good news for me was that there was a sudden rainstorm that blew through, creating fast-moving creeks where there were none before and making the already challenging terrain slippery.
When faced with sketchy obstacles a spotter would get in front of the vehicle, just a few feet ahead, and I remember fearing that I’d hit the gas a bit too aggressively and the tires would grip and. . .
Jaguar Land Rover has developed a smartphone app that allows a driver to be outside of a vehicle and yet control it—steering, braking, accelerating. Meaning that a driver could be the spotter.
Of course, this technology in the Remote Control Range Rover Sport research vehicle is more likely to end up in consumer vehicles used to maneuver into and out of parking spots at the local upscale mall than in some locale where mules and goats are more comfortable in.
But this is Land Rover, so they’ve got to be off-road capable.
It should be noted, this is still developmental. You can’t go to your local Land Rover dealership and select the “Remote Control option.” At least not yet.
According to Dr. Wolfgang Epple, Director of Research and Technology, Jaguar Land Rover, “Because our customers drive in all terrains and in all weathers, any future autonomous Jaguar or Land Rover must be as capable on rough tracks and unpaved roads as it would be on city streets.”
They’re working on creating a vehicle with sensor fusion—radar, LIDAR, cameras, ultrasonic, structured light—such that the result would be autonomous driving capability not dependent on lane markers and able to deal with prevailing weather conditions.
“Our research engineers have a nickname for a car with this level of capability,” Epple said. “The ‘Solo Car.’”
Presumably, a driver would have to be at least in it.