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Jaguar grapples with autonomous future

No hands: JLR detailed its latest advancements in driverless tech last week that includes a fleet of vehicles that will be tested on public roads in the UK.

Autonomous technology could impact brand according to top Jag execs

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Jaguar logo20 Jul 2016

JAGUAR’S design director Ian Callum said he is not “very excited” about the prospect of designing an autonomous car just days after parent company Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) detailed its plans to create a fleet of research vehicles to test driverless technology in the coming years.

As previously reported, JLR last week announced that it would create a fleet of more than 100 vehicles in the next four years to develop and test what it describes as Connected and Autonomous Vehicle (CAV) technologies.

The Tata-owned car-maker says that the testing will include real-world driving on a 66km route on motorways and urban roads in the United Kingdom between its global headquarters in Coventry and the Solihull factory using vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure technologies.

JLR also detailed new technology that will introduce autonomous off-roading to its Land Rover models.

Speaking with GoAuto at the Australian launch of the F-Pace SUV, Mr Callum said the advent of autonomous technology in cars has not yet had any impact on production vehicle design and highlighted a possible rollout of the tech.

“Technologically we are working on it (autonomous tech), absolutely, and we are up there with the best of them,” he said in Byron Bay last week.

“But immediately the first stage will be a driverless car, you press a button it will drive itself. And we (JLR) may look at things like steering wheels deploying down to give more space for the driver for instance or seats giving a bit more movement in them, but you are always incumbent by seatbelts and other areas. You have still got to protect yourself over the whole crash issue so you can’t do too much.” Mr Callum said the next phase will be complete autonomy, which is a prospect that leaves him cold, and added that it was important to differentiate between driverless cars and electric vehicles.

“The next stage will be, possibly, some people will build completely autonomous cars that are like floating living rooms. Where there is no driver contact whatsoever. Like the Google car, in which case it takes on a whole different mould.

“I can’t say I am getting very excited about that thought. Therefore I haven’t really jumped into that idea with enthusiasm.

“Does it affect the design of the car? I don’t think so. Electric cars will affect the design more than that. And they are mutually exclusive. People say autonomous electric cars. Let’s split the two apart. They have different jobs to do.” Meanwhile, JLR Australia managing director Matthew Wiesner reiterated his position as reported by GoAuto in February that Jaguar was about driver enjoyment and that fully autonomous technology would have a significant impact on the brand.

“Everyone is looking at it,” he said at the launch. “There are some views around the place that Jaguar is a performance brand, a very emotional brand, a driver’s brand. And one would be very careful of dumbing that down.

“Now does autonomous technology become an important technology within cars for commuting? Ok, that makes sense when you are stuck on the M5 (Sydney motorway) and you can just slide along at 50km/h bored stupid, of course. But at end of the day we build cars we want people to drive, not be driven. That attitude would be alive and well across the business. Because it is what we do. Does autonomous technology have a place? Yes it does.” Mr Wiesner criticised automotive companies that are pushing heavily to adopt fully autonomous vehicles, suggesting that it “vanilla-ises that whole brand or product”.

“We invest a lot in the joy of driving and controlling what we have. A lot of it is emotion in there. And that’s what brands are. That’s what makes them stand out amongst others and that’s not going to stop.”

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