Jaguar Land Rover is creating a system that can help drivers dodge potential street hazards by scanning uneven surfaces in the road ahead and warning them of potential problems.
The company hopes that “connected” cars of the future equipped with its “pothole alert” system will identify poor road conditions and share their location through the cloud so other drivers can take evasive action.
JLR is working with local authorities on the project and hopes that by creating a digital map of problem roads, councils can prioritise areas in need of repair, making maintenance faster and more efficient.
As well as potholes, JLR’s system will locate broken manhole covers and other hazards which could damage vehicles.
The system is just another step down the road to autonomous – or self-driving cars – which will take control from humans and hand it over to computers.
At the moment, JLR envisions the pothole alert warning human drivers of hazards so they could slow down and avoid dangers, while letting advanced suspension systems automatically adjust their settings to smooth out the ride.
As well as cutting repair bills, pothole alert could help reduce the number of accidents on the roads. Drivers who swerve to avoid potholes at the last minute often end up colliding with other motorists.
JLR’s advanced development centre is planning to install new road surface sensing technology in a research vehicle, including a forward-facing stereo digital camera. By connecting it to GPS, the system could map the location of the pothole and broadcast it to other cars.
JLR’s Range Rover off-roaders can already be specified with sensors that detect potholes and broken drain covers as the vehicles drive over them, allowing their suspension to instantly adapt.
Dr Mike Bell, connected car director at JLR, said: “At the moment the most accurate data comes from when the car has driven over the pothole or manhole, so we are also researching how we could improve the measurement and accuracy of pothole detection by scanning the road ahead. That way, the car could predict how severe they are before the vehicle gets near them”.