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Jaguar Land Rover to test semi-autonomous cars

Car firm to amass test fleet of more than 100 vehicles over next four years

Jaguar Land Rover is to begin trialling self-driving car technology on its vehicles on a 41-mile test route in the Midlands.

The car maker is to increase its fleet of test vehicles to more than 100 over the next four years. Preliminary tests will involve vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communications technologies that will allow cars to talk to each other and roadside signs, overhead gantries and traffic lights.

The firm said that this data sharing between vehicles would allow future connected cars to co-operate and work together to assist the driver and make lane changing and crossing junctions easier and safer.

One technology touted by the firm is Roadwork Assist. This uses a forward-facing stereo camera to generate a 3D view of the road ahead and together with advanced image processing software, it can recognise cones and barriers.

The system will sense when the vehicle is approaching the start of any roadworks, identify an ideal path through complicated construction sites and contraflows, and inform the driver that the road is narrowing ahead. The system will then apply a small amount of steering assistance to the wheel to help the driver remain centred in lane.

Another is called Safe Pullaway, an assistance system that prevents collisions caused when drivers pull away from the kerb. It uses the stereo camera to monitor the area immediately in front of the vehicle. If objects such as vehicles or walls are detected, and the system receives signals from throttle pedal activation or from gear selection that could lead to a collision, the vehicle brakes are automatically applied and the driver receives an audible warning.

Last, Over the Horizon Warning is part of a research project testing devices that use radio signals to transmit relevant data from vehicle to vehicle. If vehicles were able to communicate independently, drivers and autonomous cars could be warned of hazards and obstacles over the horizon or around blind bends.

Tony Harper, head of research at Jaguar Land Rover, said: "Our connected and automated technology could help improve traffic flow, cut congestion and reduce the potential for accidents.

"We will also improve the driving experience, with drivers able to choose how much support and assistance they need. In traffic, for example, the driver could choose autonomy assist during tedious or stressful parts of the journey.

"But even when an enthusiastic driver is fully focused on enjoying the thrill of the open road, the new technology we are creating will still be working in the background to help keep them safe. Because the intelligent car will always be alert and is never distracted, it could guide you through road works and prevent accidents."

The news comes as the UK government plans to overhaul the Highway Code to support the use of semi-autonomous cars, and proposes to redraft car insurance legislation to cover driverless vehicles.

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