Jaguar Land Rover trials pothole detection tech

Jaguar Land Rover has announced a research project into pothole detection technology, which could reduce the damage they do to cars and help improve road maintenance.

JLR’s system, currently in early-stage trials on a Range Rover Evoque research vehicle, uses an advanced stereo camera to scan the road ahead. When the system detects a pothole, broken drain or manhole cover it determines the severtity – size/depth – of the obstacle, then primes the MagneRide suspension to deal with it, mitigating any potential for damage and improving the ride for passengers.

This system isn’t unique – Mercedes employs something similar in the S-Class. But JLR thinks the system has greater potential. Dr Mike Bell, head of JLR’s connected car research, said: “We think there is a huge opportunity to turn the information from these vehicle sensors into ‘big data’ and share it for the benefit of other road users.”

Vehicle damage caused by potholes costs an estimated £2.8 billion per year. An individual vehicle able to detect potholes and mitigate the impact will help reduce damage. But in the ‘connected car’ world that seems to be coming soon, a car equipped with the system could inform other vehicles in the area, allowing them to deploy their own impact mitigation systems or avoid that section of road entirely.

According to JLR, sensing the road ahead and assessing hazards are key abilities autonomous cars will need to work effectively. Dr Bell said: “In the future we are looking to develop systems that could automatically guide a car around potholes without the car leaving its lane. If the pothole hazard was significant enough, safety systems could slow or even stop the car to minimise the impact.”

It’s not mentioned in this context, but it’s easy to imagine pothole detection technology being a key feature of the full-windscreen head-up display JLR is also working on. It could highlight potholes and even show guidelines for the best route around it.

But the possibilities go even further. JLR is working with Coventry City Council to understand how the data collected by a car as it detects potholes could be shared with local authorities to improve road maintenance.

Councillor Rachel Lancaster, Cabinet Member for Public Services at Coventry City Council 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.”

JLR is investigating if the stereo camera the system is built around could capture an image of the pothole and send it to the relevant authorities with a GPS location. The information could then be used to prioritise road repairs and even monitor the deterioration of a particular section of road.

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By Only Motors

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