1. Control your vehicle from an iPhone
Jaguar Land Rover very kindly invited T3 up to its top-secret testing facility in Gaydon yesterday (June 16).
The place is extremely secretive, we were told to leave our cameras at home, and had to put our smartphones in little plastic bags.
The facility is where JLR test out new ideas and vehicles (we saw several prototype vehicles in black and white testing livery — including the upcoming convertible Evoque and Jaguar F-Pace).
Very exciting stuff for a petrol head.
The highlight of our tour was the remote controlled — which we both controlled, and rode.
Controlling the two-tonne RC car is surprisingly easy (and unsurprisingly scary), the well-designed iPhone app was simple — and felt just like a toy that you might buy for Christmas.
You might wonder what’s the point of all this?
Land Rover was able to provide several potential uses — first of all, it’s great for people who drive off-road and need to check ground clearance.
Another scenario is getting out of the car to open a gate, guide it remotely through, then close the gate. Finally reversing to connect a caravan or trailer.
Sure they might be niche, but the whole concept is amazing — proper James Bond Tomorrow Never Dies stuff.
The phone connects with Bluetooth right now (but Wi-Fi in the future), with a top speed of 4mph and safety systems which apply brakes if the connection is lost.
2. Let your car do all the tricky bits
During a short talk, Doctor Wolfgang Epple, Director of Research and Technology at JLR clearly stated they are not working towards a fully autonomous vehicle to complete with the likes of Google and others.
Jaguar Land Rover believe people enjoy driving, and their cars will have certain levels of autonomy to aid with the boring parts, such as motorway cruising, and maneuvers.
We sat in a Range Rover Sport, tapped a ‘Multi Point turn’ button on an iPad (although the future will be built into the infotainment system), and relaxed while the car performed a three point turn.
What’s really impressive is that this model was from their current fleet with no additional hardware — all of the automation came from a software update.
It only makes use of parking cameras and electric steering — theoretically this means any current Rangies could receive these new features.
3. Built in sensors will read your body
This one’s another interesting project — Jaguar Range Rover were showing off technology from their Human Machine Interface division. This looks at how the squishy organic stuff, i.e. us, interacts with the car.
We sat in a seat that can read your heart rate, breathing rate, and tell you whether you’re calm or stressed (although worryingly, according to the seat I was dead).
This system could then talk to other systems, and, for example, increase the gap between the car in front if you’re stressed and put the seat massagers on. Or if it senses you’re tired, then make the cabin colder with air con.
We also tried out a steering wheel that is capable of sensing brainwaves through your hand (which could eventually be used to know if you’re paying attention to the road).
It’s obviously very early days for this technology, and still very much in the research stage.
4. Never hit a pothole again
This innovation is particularly useful for British roads — pot hole sensors.
The sensors, at the moment, simply feel when you’ve driven over a pothole, logs it on a map, and attemps to adjust the suspension to reduce damage.
But in the future the engineers see cars that could either spot a pothole and pre-emptively adjust the suspension, or even log the dodgy road surface and notify the council — so they can come and fix it.
The pothole data could also be uploaded into the cloud — allowing other vehicles to access it and avoid the problem as well.
JLR think this could potentially save motorists billions in vehicle damage repair and accidents.
5. Haptic feedback
Not a sexy picture — we know, but this is a really neat solution to one of our biggest driving annoyances — too many beeps.
We currently get inundated with sound notifications for speed limits warnings, speed camera warnings, collision detection, and lane departure warnings.
There are so many beeps and bells that you start to filter out the noise and pay less attention to them.
JLR are developing a haptic accelerator pedal, which can vibrate and pulse to notify you (instead of a beep).
It feels really natural, and quite characterful, almost as if the car is trying to talk to you — like Herbie, or Brum.
6. Designed in virtual reality
The company make extensive use of virtual reality in the design stage of their cars, and it’s been around in the automotive industry a lot longer than it’s been in the consumer tech and gaming industry.
LJR have been using VR for at least 10 years to create production workstations (allowing engineers to design the perfect workplace for people of all sizes).
For example, it’s possible to see if a part can be easily installed, without needing to stretch or bend which could be uncomfortable for the production line employee.
Of course, VR is also used in the design of vehicles, and now engineers and designers can sit in virtual models before needing to pick up tools.
This is a massive cost-cutting platform for the company, and means as many final details can be nailed down before spending money on tools and materials.
JRL are always looking at what’s next on the VR horizon, currently they use an Oculus Rift Dev Kit 2 — but they plan on getting six of the best headsets (including Vive) in for a group test soon.
7. Get a smarter infotainment system
Taking your eyes off the road, even for a couple of seconds, is dangerous — so Jaguar Land Rover are developing solutions to reduce this as much as possible.
This includes tech similar to Leap Motion, which predicts where you’re going to point on a touch screen — reducing eyes off road time by 22-percent.
And really innovative invisible buttons, which make use of ultrasonic sound to give haptic feedback as to where your hand is. This was quite spectacular — and felt like little jets of air rather than sound waves.
8. Your car will learn your habbits
The company is developing a learning system, which can record your everyday life and automates it to make things easier.
The example we used was a journey to and from work. Jump in the car in the morning and pop the heating and Radio 2 on. Heading home from a tough day at work? Bluetooth smartphone connection and massaging seat please.
If you do this regularly enough (it takes three weeks to start predicting) the car will automatically adjust these setting for you, based on GPS location, and who many people are in the car.
If you suddenly gain a perchant for Radio Three, the car will adapt to learn that as well.
Pretty nifty right?
9. The mystery smartwatch
This wasn’t an official demonstration, but while being shown through some of the tech I noticed an employee was wearing a smartwatch — one I didn’t recognise.
When I asked about it, I was told the watch was an internal one, for development purposes. I then found some images in the press release.
Are JLR developing a smartwatch which could be used as a key? Or some other interesting use? Only time will tell…
But it looked very nice, so I hope it does see the light of day.