GAYDON, England -- Automakers are close to perfecting the technology that can autonomously guide vehicles along highways with smooth pavement and clear lane markings and signs -- the kind of driving humans might handle easily with the cruise control engaged and a single finger hooked on the steering wheel.
But a suite of connected-car technologies under development at Jaguar Land Rover aims to improve vehicle safety in the kinds of places that might test the limitations of human drivers. That is, the places where Land Rovers might rove.
During a media event this month here at the company's sprawling engineering center on a former air force base in central England JLR officials let media test drive a fleet of vehicles with technologies that can see, steer, connect and measure the space above and around a vehicle, regardless of terrain.
With this effort, JLR is aiming to plant its flag as the company whose technologies improve safety regardless of where the vehicle is driven.
"We don't want to limit highly automated and fully autonomous technologies to tarmac," said Tony Harper, JLR's head of research. "When the driver turns off the road, we want this support and assistance to continue."
JLR officials wouldn't say how much the company is investing in its autonomous and connected-car research, but they acknowledged it is in the hundreds of millions of dollars -- a major commitment for an automaker that expects global sales this year of just over 500,000 vehicles.