Jaguar Land Rover on Thursday announced it is ready to start testing Level 4 self-driving car prototypes on public roads in urban environments.
The prototypes are fitted with the British firm’s Autonomous Urban Drive technology which allows them to drive in complex environments without any driver involvement. According to Jaguar Land Rover, the prototypes have no problem obeying traffic lights as well as negotiating junctions and roundabouts. This is in contrast to some rival systems that are designed for simpler conditions such as highways and traffic jams.
Using Autonomous Urban Drive, a person only needs to select a location on the navigation and the prototype will decide the best route and head off. Jaguar Land Rover hasn’t detailed what conditions the system works within. It’s likely only set routes where highly detailed map data is available will be possible initially.
A self-driving car is considered to be at Level 4 capability if it can safely operate in specific conditions without the need of the driver. Should the car approach roads outside of the specific conditions, the driver will be requested to take over well in advance. If the driver fails to take over, the car will be able to safely bring itself to a stop.
Jaguar Land Rover self-driving prototype
Self-driving technology available today is at Level 2 capability. Here, the car can handle specific conditions on its own but requires a driver to constantly monitor in case of errors. Level 3 is similar to Level 4 but less capable and the warning time provided for the driver to take over is much shorter. Because of these shortcomings, many automakers are likely to skip Level 3 and go straight to Level 4.
Level 5, the ultimate goal, is where no driver is required whatsoever.
Jaguar Land Rover has been testing the technology at the HORIBA MIRA test site in the United Kingdom. With the tests on this closed-off environment successfully completed, the next phase will see the prototypes take to public roads in the cities of Milton Keynes and Coventry by the end of 2017.
The automaker expects to have the technology available for sale within the next decade.