Specially equipped Land Rovers are testing connected-car technology that will allow a vehicle to identify the location and severity of potholes, broken drains and manhole covers. Data from this system could then also be shared in real time with other vehicles as well as with road authorities, helping boost road safety.

The vehicles are fitted with MagneRide, a high-performance, semi-active suspension control system that responds in real time to road and driving conditions based on input from sensors that monitor body and wheel motion. It uses a special damping fluid containing magnetic particles’ when the particles are subjected to a magnetic field, the viscosity of the damper fluid is either increased or decreased, making the suspension stiffer or softer – very rapidly indeed.

The MagneRide-equipped Range Rover Evoque and Discovery Sport vehicles feature sophisticated sensors that allow the vehicle to profile the road surface under the wheels and identify potholes, raised manholes and broken drain covers. By monitoring the motion of the vehicle and changes in the height of the suspension, the car is able to continuously adjust the vehicle’s suspension characteristics, giving passengers a more comfortable ride over uneven and damaged road surfaces.

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 an advanced forward-facing stereoscopic digital camera, says Dr Mike Bell, Global Connected Car Director, Jaguar Land Rover.

“At the moment the most accurate data comes from when the car has driven over the pothole or manhole”, Bell explained. “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.

Being able to see ahead and adapt accordingly is a distinct advantage, as Mercedes-Benz has found with its own version of this anticipatory tech, which it calls Magic Body Control. The difference with the Land Rover approach is that the company sees potential to turn the information from these vehicle sensors into ‘big data’ and share it for the benefit of other road users. “This could help prevent billions of pounds of vehicle damage and make road repairs more effective,” says Bell.

“Ultimately, sensing the road ahead and assessing hazards is a key building block on our journey to the autonomous car,” Bell adds. “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.” 

Keeping roads in shape

Jaguar Land Rover’s research team will 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. 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.

Other research projects from the centre include Bike Sense, a concept technology that uses lights, sound, and haptic feedback to alert drivers of approaching bicycles or motorcycles. Another concept that makes use of forward-facing camera systems is Transparent Pillar, which improves safety by feeding video to in-car monitors mounted on the A-pillars, giving drivers an unimpeded view of their surroundings.

Source: Jaguar Land Rover