ILC ARTICLE

Jaguar Land Rover reveals electric self-driving pod that will be used on British roads NEXT YEAR – and Prince Charles is among the first to see it


Source: www.thisismoney.co.uk

  • Jaguar Land Rover pod to be used on roads in Coventry as part of a driverless car trial called ‘Project Vector’
  • Scheme launches in 2021 to test how self-driving machines can interact with other vehicles and road users
  • The pure electric pod has glass sliding doors and can seat up to five passengers at once
  • At four metres in length and capable of zero-emission and silent transport, it has been designed for urban use 
  • Prince of Wales was among the first to see the pod as he opened a new automotive innovation centre at Warwick University 

Jaguar Land Rover today revealed its new electric driverless pod that will be at the heart of new real world autonomous vehicle trials on public roads in Coventry from next year. 

The city will be used as a ‘living laboratory’ by Britain’s biggest car-maker to test how the self-driving pods interact with other vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists. 

One of the first to get an early preview is Prince Charles, who was on hand to officially open the National Automotive Innovation Centre at Warwick University, where the vehicle has been unveiled.

Dubbed ‘Project Vector’, details of the new electric self-driving pod scheme were announced at the official opening of the new technology centre, which is a joint collaboration between the Warwick Manufacturing Group and Jaguar Land Rover. 

The Prince of Wales was in attendance to see the vehicle during the event, which has been used to showcase concepts for the future of sustainable travel from Jaguar Land Rover, its Indian owners Tata Motors and the Warwick Manufacturing Group. 

Prince Charles has already shown himself to be a fan of electric cars, having been seen driven in Jaguar’s battery-powered I-Pace on a number of occasions, using the plug-in vehicle for a variety of events.

The car giant described Project Vector an advanced, flexible, multi-use electric vehicle that is ‘autonomy-ready’.

The pilot programme for the self-driving vehicles to be used on public roads around Coventry is planned ‘from late 2021’, it said.

Speaking immediately after the royal visit, project chief Dr Tim Leverton told This is Money that although the four metre footprint of the pod was about the size of Volkswagen Polo or a Ford Fiesta, its design meant there was as much interior space as in an SUV or 4X4.

He said each pod used in the new trial will carry up to six people and he expected a fleet of around 20 vehicles to operate as student shuttles to and from Warwick University, one of the UK’s top ranked higher education institutions.

Speeds would be up to 30mph or 40mph to ensure the vehicles could be used in normal flowing traffic, dropping to 20mph in slower urban zones.

Initially the pods could be used within the extensive Warwick University campus – home to more than 23,000 students – on the outskirts of Coventry on the Warwickshire border.

But this would swiftly extend to routes between the Warwick campus and the Tile Hill Station area of Coventry where around 2,000 students live, the nearby Cannon Park shopping centre, Coventry city centre itself, as well as the nearby student ‘dormitory’ towns of Leamington Spa and Kenilworth.

Dr Leverton said the cars would initially be driven using the steering wheel before increasing levels of autonomy are phased in.

The electric cars will have a range of up to 190 miles between charges.

He believed passengers would feel safe being driven without a driver: ‘I have experienced riding in a fully autonomous vehicle. You get to a level of comfort very quickly.’

The pods are built at the university with engineering input from Jaguar Land Rover. The electric power elements draw on 250 patents lodged for the all-electric Jaguar I-Pace.

Experts set out five levels of self-driving autonomy, and the pods would aim for Level 4.

He said: ’The technology is developing quickly. We see this as being very relevant, though I can’t put an exact timescale on it.’

The trial is part of the manufacturer’s ‘bold next step’ in the journey towards creating a hi-tech future of vehicles with ‘zero emissions, zero accidents and zero congestion’ which it calls its ‘Destination Zero’.

With sliding glass doors, the compact vehicle is designed as a flexible runaround for the city. 

Its electric batteries and drivetrain are packaged into a flat floor – described as a ‘skateboard’ configuration – with the passenger compartment built on top of it. 

This allows for a variety of uses and means seating is flexible and the vehicle can be configured for two to five people. 

A statement by Jaguar Land Rover said: ‘The revolutionary interior cabin space allows seating configurations for private, or shared use and even the opportunity for commercial applications, such as last mile deliveries.’ 

This helps it to create an ‘autonomous, electric, connected future for urban mobility’.

Interior shots show the pods do have a steering wheel, which can be deployed if the self-drive vehicle is to be over-ridden and driven manually.

Engineers and academics behind the initiative said Project Vector had been created ‘with the mission to raise the quality of future urban living’.

The National Automotive Innovation Centre conducting the trial will work with Coventry City Council and the West Midlands Combined Authority to launch the pilot scheme next year.

The company said: ‘Jaguar Land Rover’s Destination Zero mission is an ambition to make societies safer and healthier, and the environment cleaner.’

Jaguar Land Rover has already been involved in earlier trials using adapted Range Rover Sport 4X4s fitted with self-driving technology.

The new National Automotive Innovation Centre is housed in The Professor Lord Bhattacharyya Building, named after the late pioneering academic who helped create new forms of flexible manufacturing used throughout the motor industry today – such as having different models of car being built on the same line.

The project’s dedicated team will work ‘in the manner of a start-up’ business with links to academic and external partners. 

JLR said: ‘It will also address the wider landscape of mobility, from how customers connect with mobility services, to the infrastructure required to enable fully integrated, autonomous vehicles in our cities.’

Project director Dr Tim Leverton commented: ‘Shared and private vehicles will share spaces with and be connected to public transit networks, so you can travel on demand and autonomously. 

‘That is a complex task, best achieved by working together with partners across the spectrum of vehicles, infrastructure and the digital world. 

‘With the technology and engineering power of Jaguar Land Rover, we can provide a unique opportunity for innovators to develop highly-functional urban mobility services, seamlessly integrated into everyday life.’

He added: ‘Future urban travel will be a composite of owned and shared vehicles, access to ride hailing and on-demand services as well as public transport. 

‘Our vision shows the vehicle as a flexible part of the urban mobility network that can be adapted for different purposes.’

Chief engineer Professor Dr Gero Kempf said the project presented ‘a blank canvas’ for creating new transport options in a ‘smart city’.

Jaguar Land Rover chief executive officer, Professor Sir Ralf Speth, said: ‘Jaguar Land Rover understands the trends shaping modern societies. 

‘Project Vector shows Jaguar Land Rover as a leader in innovation to make our societies safer and healthier, and the environment cleaner.

‘Through this project, we are collaborating with the brightest minds in academia, supply chain and digital services, to create connected, integrated mobility systems – the fundamental building blocks for Destination Zero. 

‘Project Vector is precisely the brave and innovative leap forward needed to deliver on our mission.’

Last year Jaguar Land Rover sold 557,706 vehicles in 127 countries. 

In the UK it has two major design and engineering sites – at Gaydon in Warwickshire and in Coventry; three vehicle factories in Castle Bromwich and Solihull, near Birmingham, and Halewood on Merseyside; an Engine Manufacturing Centre and soon to be opened Battery Assembly Centre in Wolverhampton.

These three facilities combined made JLR the biggest car maker in the UK in 2019, producing 385,197 vehicles in total. 

It also has vehicle plants in China, Brazil, India, Austria and Slovakia. 

Among its seven technology hubs three are in UK: Warwick University, Manchester, and London. The others are in Shannon, Ireland, Portland, USA, Budapest, Hungary and Changshu, China.

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