There was a time when the idea of a car that could drive itself was just consigned to comic books and movies. Not anymore! The world of autonomous, or automated vehicles is coming and many of the leading players in the car market are weighing up whether they want to be part of it. Some are steering clear, Ferrari, for example, has vowed never to build a self-driving car. Jaguar Land Rover though, are working on it.
Many of you may have seen the news last year that JLR signed a deal with AI giant Nvidia to enhance its attempts at creating self-driving vehicles. This multi-year deal plans to bring self-driving Jaguar Land Rovers to us in 2025.
Having already opened six hubs across the globe focused on developing self-driving cars, JLR announced just recently that it plans to open three more of these hubs. All located in Europe, they are set to further enhance the aims of JLR to get a significant foothold in the autonomous vehicle market. These hubs are set to be in Bologna, Munich and Madrid, owners of Jaguar Land Rover, Tata Motors say that these locations were chosen specifically for the availability of digital engineering specialists in the areas.
So, in this month’s blog, we look a little more at the world of the self-driving car.
What is an autonomous vehicle?
A while ago, Elon Musk prophesied that fully self-driving vehicles would be on the road by 2021 and whilst some cars with a level of self-drive capabilities exist. Those that can carry out a fully automated or autonomous driving experience are yet to hit the road for regular road users.
Why the two different terms you may ask? Automated and autonomous are largely the same thing are they not? Well, it depends on how you want to define them. The SAE chose to use the term automated rather than autonomous as autonomy could imply that the vehicle can make its own decisions. This could mean you end up at a destination the car wants to go to rather than the one you need to go to. An automated car though would do all the work for you, just under your instruction.
Many think an autonomous vehicle or self-driving car is just that. One that gets you from A-2-B without the driver having to do much if anything at all. In fact, it is a little different to that. The Society of Automotive Engineering (SAE), in 2014, created a classification and definition for the varying levels of autonomous vehicles.
What are the levels of self-driving cars?
There are six categories set by the SAE for self-driving cars, and at present, we only see limited vehicles on the roads up to level 2 and even then, it is with cetain caveats in place.
Level 0-Automated systems may issue warnings on the vehicle, but the car is in the control of the driver.
Level 1- Known as “hands on” both the driver and the system share control of the vehicle. The driver handles the steering, and the system controls manage features like adaptive braking, cruise control and so on.
Level 2- Known as “hands off” this level allows the car to be under the control of the system rather than the driver but the driver must be fully alert to the road at all times and be able to take full control of the vehicle when necessary. The hands-off term is to be taken lightly as in most cases, any vehicle falling under SAE level 2 would have it stipulated that contact with the steering wheel should be maintained.
Level 3-Known as “eyes off” is where the driver can take their eyes away from the road. The vehicle will be able to handle all situations that require rapid response. The driver may still be required to take action in some instances. Perhaps the best way to sum up level 3 would be that it allows the driver to take the role of co-pilot!
Level 4-Known as “mind off” this level of self-driving vehicle requires no effort from the driver at all. The driver could sleep, change seats or immerse themselves in any onboard entertainment without having to do anything else.
Level 5-known as “steering wheel optional” is where absolutely no intervention from a human is ever needed. These vehicles will adapt to weather conditions, traffic flow and anything else happening on and around the road. This is the end goal of those seeking to create a fully automated vehicle.
What self-driving cars are there now?
Not many, in fact, nothing above level 2 is currently available to the public although, in some cities across the world, pilot schemes are in place with buses and taxis operating at level 3. That is not to say there won’t be vehicles for general road users obtaining level 3, or even 5. Many of the leading car marques are putting hours of testing into the mechanics behind automated vehicles. With miles of simulated driving sessions presented to the vehicle systems and sensors, engineers can assess how the vehicle would respond and what action it would take.
Are self-driving cars legal in the UK?
At present, no. Some elements of the tech have been passed as legal, but none have been adopted by regular road-going vehicles as of yet. However, as Jaguar Land Rover, and many others, continue to work towards hitting the goal of self-driving vehicles, we could see this change sooner than we first thought.
One area of confusion is often around Tesla. The company, often one to court controversy thanks to Elon Musk, has embraced two systems, Autopilot and Full Self-Driving (FSD). The Autopilot system, as an advanced driver system is legal in the UK. The FSD is not.
The Tesla FSD is currently being tested by selected Tesla customers though and it is showing mixed results so it may be some time until we see that successfully granted access to the UK market.
When will the self-driving Jaguar Land Rover be released?
Starting in 2025, all new Jaguar and Land Rover vehicles will be built on NVIDIA DRIVE to provide drivers with a host of automated options. With a large focus on active safety, automated driving, automated parking systems and driver assistance, this technology stands to reshape the JLR landscape.
This may not reach the SEA level 5, or even level 4 but it is certainly expected that level 3 is the aim. This means your Land Rover will be able to drive you from place to place in certain conditions where driver intervention is not required.
Which Land Rovers will be self-driving?
At present, there has been nothing confirmed as to which vehicles under the Jaguar Land Rover umbrella will benefit from this technological advancement. With the aim of manufacturing only electric vehicles from 2025, self-driving features may be implemented by many of these models as part of a tech revolution. We wait in anticipation!
When the automated Jaguar Land Rovers hit the market, remember to tell it to come via Roberts Country Vehicles. As Kent based Land Rover specialists with over 30 years of experience, we can keep your vehicle maintained to the highest standards. Offering services in line with the Land Rover service schedule and able to carry out Land Rover MOTs as well as Land Rover tyre and wheel alignment, we are delighted to be able to offer owners prices up to 40% cheaper than main dealers. Want to know more? Get in touch today.