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Look, no hands! Self-driving Range Rover Sport tackles rush-hour ring road

By Simon Penfold | Business | Published:

Meet the hands-free car that has just tackled one of the West Midlands' most challenging road networks – without its human 'driver' lifting a finger.

At the wheel of a self-driving Range Rover Sport as part of Jaguar Land Rover research into autonomous vehicles

Packed full of the latest hi-tech sensors and equipment, this self-driving Range Rover Sport handled complicated lane changes, slip roads, traffic lights and roundabouts all at the speed limit of 40 mph, even in rush hour, as it negotiated Coventry Ring Road for the first time.

The test was part of the £20 million Government-funded UK Autodrive project that is due to end this month, after three years' work.

West Midlands-based luxury car maker Jaguar Land Rover – which builds its engines in Wolverhampton – has been one of the lead companies in the project and plans to make self-driving vehicles a reality for its customers within the next decade.

WATCH the footage here:

Self-driving Range Rover Sport tackles rush-hour ring road

Safety surrounding the project has been crucial, and JLR's engineers carried out extensive testing on the self-driving technology on closed tracks before heading onto public roads in Milton Keynes and Coventry.

Mark Cund, Jaguar Land Rover's autonomous vehicle research manager, said: “The Coventry Ring Road is known for its complicated slip roads and exits. It makes for very challenging conditions, especially when under pressure in the rush hour.

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The car features a range of new technology

“Our self-driving car is not impacted by the same pressure, frustrations or fatigue that a driver may experience and so it’s capable of turning a potentially very stressful situation into a completely stress-free one.”

The Range Rover Sport - chosen for its performance and existing features, such as adaptive cruise Ccntrol - has been modified to include additional navigation sensors, radar and Lidar.

Coupled with the UK Autodrive research, the vehicle can now autonomously handle roundabouts, traffic lights, pedestrians, cyclists and other vehicles on complicated roads. It can even park itself.

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Jaguar Land Rover is hoping to have self-driving vehicles on the market within a decade

The technology uses the internet to connect vehicles to each other and to infrastructure such as traffic lights.

One of the major developments during the project has been installing 'smart' technology into the road network that can then communicate with the self-driving cars.

Coventry has been chosen for much of the testing because it is so close to Jaguar Land Rover's headquarters and technology research centres, at Whitley.

Inside the self-driving car

The company is continuing its work to make its self-driving vehicles capable of working in the widest range of terrain and weather conditions.

The company has also been putting effort into ways of making pedestrians feel safer around self-driving cars.

In August JLR unveiled an autonomous pod with big googly-eyes designed to 'look' directly at pedestrians at road crossings so they could be confident that the machine knows they are there and won't run them over.

Simon Penfold

By Simon Penfold
Business Editor - @SPenfold_star

Business Editor based at the Express & Star's head office in Wolverhampton, looking for stories big & small.

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