Hands Off My Land Rover! Autonomous Off Road Driving in Development

The world-first 'CORTEX' project will take self-driving cars off-road, ensuring they are fully capable in any weather condition: dirt, rain, ice, snow or fog.


Land Rover are making our wildest 4X4 dreams nightmares come true. Imagine this: you nose your fourby up to a steep, eroded, rock-strewn climb. It looks gnarly; usually you’d get out and walk it first. Instead, your left hand instinctively grabs at the auto-drive button. You lean back and let the car gently idle over, around and along the track, ensconced in your luxury cockpit as you check your favourite Facebook page for updates.

Is a self driving 4X4 a dream come true? Or a nightmare turning into reality?

Project CORTEX is Land Rover’s development for cars to self-drive whilst off-road. Already boasting the greatest traction control system around, and having oh-so-many sensors and cameras recognising twigs that may cause pin-stripes and rocks that could slash low profile tyres, Land Rover want to use all the tech and add Uber’s driverless idealism to take the skill out of our favourite pastime. Unlike Uber, however, Jaguar Land Rover have safety as a primary value.

Simple axle twisters shouldn’t pose a problem for CORTEX engineers
Simple axle twisters shouldn’t pose a problem for CORTEX engineers

Chris Holmes, Connected and Autonomous Vehicle  Research Manager at Jaguar Land Rover, said: “It’s important that we develop our self-driving vehicles with the same capability and performance customers expect from all Jaguars and Land Rovers. Self-driving is an inevitability for the automotive industry and ensuring that our autonomous offering is the most enjoyable, capable and safe is what drives us to explore the boundaries of innovation. CORTEX gives us the opportunity to work with some fantastic partners whose expertise will help us realise this vision in the near future.”

Land Rover promises the level of autonomy is adjustable, so the driver can choose a level of input they feel comfortable and safe with, starting at full human control. The technology is predominately aimed at on-road use, and is in part an extension of what we already use such as adaptive cruise control. Higher levels will still require the driver to override if the environment proves too challenging, keeping the onus on the driver.

Do you want your car to take control when off road? Or is technology already too obtrusive in recreational off-road driving? Tell us what you really think in the comments.



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  • If a self driving vehicle is involved in a accident or incident who pays for the repairs? This is a legal and insurance nightmare.

  • Don’t need to worry about this, still will be driving my td until I drop. Too many sensors and none sense will fail down the track, vehicles won’t last long. Trust my judgement more than some machine!

  • The key word in your question is “recreational”. Some of us love the challenge of the tracks themselves and aren’t ever going to choose to use the electrickery – but perhaps our partner who loves the bush but is happy to leave the driving to us has come along, and perhaps when we get bitten by a snake their best chance of driving us out is to use every driving aid at their disposal.
    Recreation could simply mean the mum and dad looking for a good mountain biking / cross country skiiing spot with the kids, and while they were out a tree fell, or a bridge washed out, leaving them with a few hairy spurs and river crossings to get home.
    I think it’s easy to be snobby about these developments, but having been on Land Rover driver days – which as an experienced 4WDer are still a hoot to learn a new vehicle and see all the shiny hardware in action, it’s genuinely heartwarming to see people doing things in cars they never dreamed possible, even if it’s just getting crossed up in a table drain and feeling the traction control kick in – the types that cross-shopped a Sport with a X5, and suddenly have a whole outdoors world opened up to them. It’s bordering on life-changing for some of them. Of course it’s brilliant marketing, but I love Land Rover for doing that for people all the same.

  • Manufacturers forcing unwanted and unneeded features and technology on customers. Why don’t they look at what people actually want (real people) and not just do things just because they can.

  • I believe that technology has gone out of control in the 4wd world. Abs for starters might be good on road but make your way down a damp clay track and just lightly tap the breaks all of a sudden you slide 20m further then where u would have stopped with out it. Then come stability control you dip a tire off the side of the road on a single lane bitumen road and all the sensors go off trying to pull you straight A’s if you have lost control. It’s down right dangerous if you know how to drive a car already. They think there making cars easier for us to drive to have less fatality’s but how about people learn to bloody drive in the first place.

  • Lets hope all these self driving cars understand the “Keep Left” road rule and take all these clowns sitting on 98 out of the right hand lane.


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