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Land Rover Defender could become a life-size remote-control car

Land Rover transformed its legendary Defender from a primitive tool into a truly modern vehicle brimming with tech, but the automaker may not have revealed everything. The Land Rover Defender could get remote-control tech that will allow for low-speed driving from outside the car, reports British magazine Autocar.

The new Defender is “capable of being able to do that in terms of its architecture,” Stuart Frith, the Defender’s chief product engineer, said in an interview with Autocar. He said Land Rover has “run prototypes” of the system, which would be used for off-road driving.

Why would remote control be useful off-road? It would allow the driver to get out of the vehicle and find the best path over obstacles, as well as check clearance around the vehicle. That’s why drivers bring a spotter along when off-roading. This tech could let drivers become their own spotters. Autocar reports that remote control would act as an extension of the Defender’s 3D Scout system, which shows a virtual image of the vehicle to help the driver get oriented. Land Rover’s wearable Active Key would be used to ensure the driver remains near the vehicle, according to Autocar.

Land Rover demonstrated this tech in 2015, using a smartphone to remote control a Range Rover Sport on an off-road course. Tesla currently offers Smart Summon, which allows cars to drive in and out of parking spaces with no one onboard. But getting a remote-control system to work reliably off-road could be challenging, given the amount of variables presented by the terrain. Autocar noted that regulations may hold up the launch of Land Rover’s remote-control tech, but the automaker may be able to get around that by restricting use to off-road courses.

Even if remote control doesn’t make it to production, the new Defender will be much more sophisticated than the original, which was designed decades before the current automotive tech revolution. Even entry-level models will get a 10.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system, and unlimited music streaming will be available. Land Rover will offer a variety of driver aids for both on-road and off-road use, including the Terrain Response system that works so well in the automaker’s other models.

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