Remote-Control Range Rover Shows Hand on Wheel Becoming Optional

Jaguar Land Rover's Research Vehicle

A Range Rover Sport is remotely controlled via a smart phone.

Photographer: George Sharman via Bloomberg

Jaguar Land Rover is testing a sport utility vehicle using a smartphone application to drive through streams and over rocky patches in a potential contribution to auto technology that doesn’t require someone to be at the wheel.

The Range Rover Sport steers, accelerates, brakes and makes U-turns with the driver walking alongside the SUV to help it negotiate rocky or steep terrain. Away from the backwoods, drivers can use the app to steer the vehicle into and out of tight parking spots, the Whitley, England-based carmaker said Tuesday.

“Getting a car out of a tricky parking maneuver can be a stressful experience for any driver,” Wolfgang Epple, Jaguar Land Rover’s director of research and technology, said in a statement. Features provided by the app demonstrate “how we could use these new technologies to reduce the tedious parts of driving and improve road safety.”

Automakers including BMW AG and Daimler AG are adding self-piloting aids such as stop-and-go assistance, which automatically match a vehicle’s speed to the car in front, as well as systems to avoid collisions with pedestrians. BMW, the world’s biggest maker of luxury cars, presented the newest version of its flagship 7-Series sedan last week that features a touch-screen key for remote-control parking in tight spots.

JLR, the division of Mumbai-based Tata Motors Ltd. that makes Jaguar luxury cars and Land Rover SUVs, is still testing the system and looking at installing it as a feature starting in about 2020, said Nick O’Donnell, a spokesman.

Speed Limit

The remote-control app is only usable when the driver is within 10 meters (30 feet) of the car, and the maximum speed will be 6 kilometers (4 miles) per hour. It’s expected to require only “small” changes to auto-safety and insurance regulations because the user would still be in full control of the vehicle, O’Donnell said.

Premium-auto manufacturers have been stressing that increasingly self-driving cars will still be enjoyable to use. Rupert Stadler, chief executive officer of second-ranked luxury-car maker Audi, estimated last week that electronics and digital features will become just as important as horsepower to carmakers’ product value by the end of the decade.

“The same sensors and systems that will help an autonomous car make the right decisions will assist the driver and enhance the experience to help prevent accidents,” Epple said. “Autonomous car technologies will not take away the fun of driving.”

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