British carmaker Jaguar Land Rover is researching connected car tech that will identify potholes, broken drains and manhole covers and share the information with other cars and road authorities nearby to help speed up road maintenance.
The technology will rival similar developments from Volvo, which has created an icy road sensor that it hopes will assist the local authorities as well as other drivers connected to the internet.
Jaguar Land Rover said its technology will also allow the car to adjust suspension settings to reduce impact - reducing puncture wheel and vehicle damage costs for drivers.
The firm's connected car director, Dr Mike Bell 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."
'MagneRide' is a semi-active suspension control system that responds in real time to road and driving conditions based on input from sensors that monitor body and wheel motion. Using a damping fluid using magnetic particles, the system can respond instantly. When the particles are subjected to a magnetic field, the viscosity of the damper fluid is either increased or decreased, making the suspension stiffer or softer.
"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," Bell added.
Technicians at the UK-based research centre will begin installing a new road surface sensor in the firm's prototype research car - a Range Rover Evoque. This will include a new advanced forward-facing stereo digital camera.
"At the moment the most accurate data comes from when the car has driven over the pothole or manhole", added Mike 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."
It is working with Coventry City Council to work on sharing road profile information with road authorities and highlight which information is most useful for maintenance teams to identify and prioritise repairs.
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