Jaguar Land Rover is building an experimental Range Rover which can automatically spot and report potholes. The system is akin to one Volvo and Ericsson have been working on to spot icy patches on roads.
The Jaguar Land Rover system uses the MagneRide suspension already offered on the Evoque and Discovery Sport.
It records the severity of potholes, broken drains and manhole covers, and then
writes a letter in green ink to the local council sends this data in real-time via a server to other vehicles and road authorities to help them prioritise repairs.
If a car can receive a warning from another vehicle about severe potholes or broken manholes ahead, then drivers would be able to slow down and avoid the danger – or the car could adjust suspension settings to reduce the impact and smooth the ride. Rolls Royces and large trucks already use GPS systems to choose gears and alter suspension settings based on the road ahead.
This could help reduce the potential for punctures, wheel and vehicle damage as well as road accidents.
The next stage of the project at Jaguar Land Rover’s Advanced Research Centre in the UK is to install new road surface sensing technology in the Range Rover Evoque research vehicle, including a forward-facing stereo digital camera. It's similar to Network Rail’s laser equipped train.
“At the moment the most accurate data comes from when the car has driven over the pothole or manhole”, said Dr Mike Bell, global connected car director at Jaguar Land Rover. “So we are also researching how we could improve the measurement and accuracy of pothole detection by scanning the road ahead, so the car could predict how severe they are before the vehicle gets near them.
“Ultimately, sensing the road ahead and assessing hazards is a key building block on our journey to the autonomous car. In the future, we are looking to develop systems that could automatically guide a car around potholes without the car leaving its lane and causing a danger to other drivers. If the pothole hazard was significant enough, safety systems could slow or even stop the car to minimize the impact. This could all help make future autonomous driving a safe and enjoyable reality.”
Jaguar Land Rover’s research team will also be working with innovation partner Coventry City Council to understand how road profile information could be shared with road authorities, and exactly what data would be most useful for their roads maintenance teams to identify and prioritise repairs.
Councillor Rachel Lancaster, Coventry City Council cabinet member for public services, said: “As part of our ‘Smart Cities’ strategy, we will be investigating how Jaguar Land Rover’s Pothole Alert system could supply us with data in real-time from thousands of connected cars right across our road network. This could give us a very accurate, minute-by-minute picture of damage to road surfaces, manholes and drains in real time.
“We already collect lots of data which we monitor very carefully ourselves but having this kind of extra information might allow us to further improve our maintenance programmes which would save the taxpayer money.”
No doubt because though the holes were rather small, they had to count them all.
The project will also investigate whether Jaguar Land Rover’s experimental camera could take an image of the pothole or damaged manhole and share this with the road authorities, together with a GPS location.
There are no current plans for inter-operability between the Range Rover and Volvo systems. That the Swedish system concentrates on icy patches and the British one on potholes speaks volumes about the state of the roads in the two countries. ®