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Jaguar Land Rover launches test fleet of semi-autonomous, connected cars

Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) is starting a test program for autonomous-driving and connected-car technologies. Over the next four years, a fleet of 100 vehicles will test on 41 miles of public roads around JLR’s facilities in Coventry and Solihull, England. JLR believes the new technology can be used to enhance the driving experience, rather than replace human drivers outright.

Initial tests will focus on vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure communications systems, which allow cars to “talk” to each other and their surroundings, relaying information and potentially warning drivers of danger. V2V has been promoted in the U.S. as a way to virtually expand a driver’s awareness by providing alerts of obstacles outside the field of view, and JLR also believes in that potential use.

JLR plans to test a system that allows slowed or stopped cars to broadcast a “Hazard Alert” signal to other vehicles, which will then transmit visual and audio warnings to their drivers. The same technology could be applied to emergency vehicles, allowing them to announce their presence to other cars before they enter a driver’s field of view. Even when drivers can hear sirens, they can’t always tell which direction the noise is coming from, JLR notes.

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The carmaker will also test systems that include some autonomous-driving capability. Cars will be equipped with forward-facing stereo cameras that can recognize cones and barriers in construction zones. Software will identify a path through the construction and keep the car centered by applying steering corrections, even without distinct lane markings. The technology could eventually allow cars to drive autonomously through roadwork zones, JLR research boss Tony Harper said in a statement.

Another system called “Safe Pullaway” also makes use of stereo cameras. It monitors conditions in front of the car, as well as the throttle or gearshift position. If the driver does something the system determines will lead to a crash, it automatically applies the brakes. Safe Pullaway is designed to prevent low-speed collisions that might occur while pulling out of a parking space or while following another car in a traffic jam.

JLR won’t discuss a timeline for introducing these systems on production cars, but as the industry races to add more autonomous capabilities, it’s probably only a matter of time before your new Jaguar or Land Rover starts beeping every time an ambulance approaches, or second guesses your parking-lot maneuvers.