From urban roadworks, to lesser-travelled rural roads, potholes and broken road surfaces are a part of life for South African motorists. These hazards not only pose a safety risk for all road users, they are also responsible for damage ranging from punctured tyres to broken suspension components. On a busy road, multiple vehicles can fall victim to a single pothole, and before word has spread to the town councils or road maintenance authorities, unwitting drivers will have incurred millions in damage.
Recognising this common problem that all road users face globally, Jaguar Land Rover is continuing its research into innovative vehicle safety systems with a new 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.
If a car can receive a warning from another vehicle about severe potholes or broken manholes ahead, then drivers would be able to slow down and avoid the danger – or the car could adjust suspension settings to reduce the impact and smooth the ride. This could help reduce the potential for punctures, wheel and vehicle damage as well as road accidents.
Dr Mike Bell, Global Connected Car Director, Jaguar Land Rover, said: “Our 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.
“While this gives our customers a more comfortable ride, 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. This could help prevent billions of pounds of vehicle damage and make road repairs more effective.”
Predicting potholes on the road to autonomous driving
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.
“At the moment the most accurate data comes from when the car has driven over the pothole or manhole”, said Bell. “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.
“Ultimately, sensing the road ahead and assessing hazards is a key building block on our journey to the autonomous car. 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.”
POTHOLE ALERT AND ROAD REPAIRS
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.
Pothole Alert joins other projects at the Jaguar Land Rover Advanced Research Centre, which is developing technologies that could be used for autonomous driving and road safety. 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.