Jaguar Land Rover, the West Midlands-based automotive maker best known for its upmarket 4x4s and luxury Jaguar-brand sedans, has the week revealed its first driverless vehicle model. The 4 metre-long, six-seater, autonomous ‘electric pod’, doesn’t look much like either a Jaguar or Land Rover car. But the company is convinced the ‘shared shuttle’ concept represents the future of urban travel.
Tim Leverton, the lead engineer for the Jaguar Land Rover ‘Project Vector’ initiative behind the design commented:
“Future urban travel will be a composite of owned and shared vehicles, access to ride-hailing and on-demand services.”
Jaguar Land Rover has applied for initial permission to test the vehicle as a shared shuttle. It hopes to start trials of the pod shuttling passengers around the University of Warwick campus, where the company has research and development facilities. A next stage could be taking passengers from the campus to the local railway station. It is hoped that the trials will eventually lead to the model being licensed to take to the UK’s roads more generally within a decade.
Jaguar Land Rover believes that as well as a shared shuttle, the model is also suited to use as a taxi, private vehicle or, with its seats removed, a delivery van. The vehicle will initially be restricted to a top speed of 25 mph, which would be expected to increase to 40 mph after early stages of testing have been completed. There are also plans for a scaled-up five metre long version of the model that would be an 8-10 seat vehicle.
The pod is seen as operating at “level 4” autonomy. That is one stage before the “level 5” of complete autonomy and means the vehicle’s technology is in control of starting, stopping and manoeuvring but retains a safety driver in position, ready to take over if required.
Jaguar Land Rover, though now owned by the Indian conglomerate Tata Group, through its Tata Motors subsidiary, is the UK’s largest automotive maker. It employs over 30,000 workers in the UK between its West Midlands and Merseyside plants and R&D facility on the Warwick University campus. It has so far launched one fully electric car model, the Jaguar I Pace.
In its summary of the new Project Vector autonomous model, Motoring Research, the industry media that publishes a magazine in addition to its website, commented:
“Think of it as the next Addison Lee, Uber Luxe and DPD van with a splash of urban tram all rolled into one.”
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