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Jaguar Land Rover is collecting data to make autonomous vehicles operate more like human drivers and is testing connected car technology along a 41-mile corridor in the UK. Photograph courtesy of Jaguar Land Rover

Jaguar Wants to Make Self-Driving Cars More Human

Feb 02, 2016

Jaguar Land Rover says drivers won't use autonomous vehicle technology that's too robotic. So, as part of its research, the automaker is collecting data it says will help make self-driving cars operate more like human drivers.

Sensors installed in a fleet of Jaguar and Land Rover test vehicles records a wealth of information about the driving habits of employees. The goal is to learn how different people react to real-world driving situations like heavy traffic, road construction, and bad weather.

The effort is part of Move-UK, a three-year $7.93 million project led by German-industrial conglomerate Robert Bosch Group that aims to accelerate the development and deployment of automated driving systems. Private U.K. research firm Transport Research Laboratory, insurance company Direct Line, the London Borough of Greenwich, and The Floow, a data management company that works with the auto insurance industry, are also part of the alliance.

Jaguar says the data will help reveal the behaviors of drivers in everyday, stressful, and complex situations like entering a traffic circle or maneuvering to avoid an ambulance that is approaching from behind in gridlocked traffic. The research is intended to help the automaker develop vehicles with more natural, human-like automated driving systems.

"Customers are much more likely to accept highly-automated and fully autonomous vehicles if the car reacts in the same way as the driver," said Dr. Wolfgang Epple, director of research and technology at Jaguar Land Rover in a statement. "By understanding and measuring positive driving behaviors we can ensure that an autonomous Jaguar or Land Rover of the future will not simply perform a robotic function."

The data will also be used to develop insurance policies for self-driving cars, according to Jaguar Land Rover. For example, insurance experts will be able to determine liability in certain scenarios using the real-world driving information supplied by the fleet of test cars.

Insurance companies face a loss in revenue as cars equipped with advanced driver assistance systems—and later autonomous vehicle technology—reduce accidents rates. As cars become safer, drivers will need less coverage, in theory. However, self-driving cars also opens up a market for covering automakers against any liability costs.

Jaguar, which focused more on driver-assistance systems, also announced that five research vehicles will be used along a special 41-mile corridor in the U.K. to test technology that lets cars communicate with each other as well as road infrastructure. For example, warning messages that are flashed in overhead digital signs on the highway could be sent directly to a car's dashboard.

New roadside communications equipment will be installed along the route during the three-year project to enable the testing of a fleet of up to 100 connected and highly automated cars.

Last year, Bosch, which supplies automakers with sensors and driver assistance systems, predicted that cars should be driving themselves on the freeway by 2020 as long as regulations can keep up with the advancing technology. Bosch has increased its investment and hired hundreds of engineers in the past several years to refine driver assistance technology—a stepping stone towards fully automated cars.

Other automakers are also developing cars with autonomous driving technology, including Audi, Daimler's Mercedes-Benz, Ford Motor (f), General Motors (gm), Kia Motors, and Nissan. Unlike Google (goog), which is focused on driverless cars, most automakers are putting automated features in cars that strike a balance between fulfilling a customer’s desire to drive when it’s enjoyable and taking over for the driver when conditions are hazardous—or when it’s not so fun (like when commuting to work).

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