WATCH THIS: The remote-controlled Range Rover Sport

If, like quite a few members of the Alphr team, tinkering with remote-controlled cars played a major part in your childhood, then Jaguar Land Rover has just the thing to rekindle those happy memories: a full-sized, remote-controlled, self-driving Range Rover Sport.

While it looks outwardly like any normal Range Rover, this sensor-laden prototype has a couple of tricks hidden throughout its four-wheel drive chassis. The first is the ability to remotely control the 4×4 using a Bluetooth-connected smartphone, and the second is the “Multi-Point Turn” feature, which allows the Range Rover to turn itself around 180 degrees without any input from the driver whatsoever.

Dr Wolfgang Epple, Jaguar Land Rover’s director of research and technology, explained: “Getting a car out of a tricky parking manoeuvre can be a stressful experience for any driver. A remote-control car, or a vehicle that can autonomously turn in the road, demonstrates how we could use these new technologies to reduce the tedious parts of driving and improve road safety.”

Self-aware 4×4?

Thanks to an array of sensors dotted around the vehicle, the vehicle is aware of its surroundings – it’s able to avoid pedestrians, vehicles and other road furniture while manoeuvring. Once activated, the system takes complete control of steering, braking, gear selection and acceleration, and simply does its own thing.

“The vehicle is aware of its surroundings – it’s able to avoid pedestrians, vehicles and other road furniture while manoeuvring.”

However, Jaguar Land Rover’s hi-tech efforts aren’t just to help you squeeze out of the Morrisons’ car park. Those Range Rover owners who are brave enough to take their pride and joy off-road will now be able to walk alongside the car while fording through rivers, navigating tricky off-camber sections or picking their way through boulder fields.

Given time, Dr Epple is confident that the technology will extend to driverless control.

“We know our customers drive in heavy rain, and snow, and bright desert sunshine every day. We are working on an array of new sensors that would enable a car to operate in any environment, without any outside intervention or input from lane markings or roadside infrastructure like traffic lights. Our research engineers have a nickname for a car with this level of capability: the ‘Solo Car’.”

But, if you’re hoping to sneak into a local field and use the new Range Rover Sport as a V8-powered remote-control car, prepare to be disappointed – since Jaguar Land Rover has employed Bluetooth technology, it only works if the user is within 10 metres of the vehicle. Frankly, KITT from Knight Rider has nothing to be worried about.

You can’t rush out and buy one quite yet (and it will probably cost just a touch more than one of Tamiya’s classic RC cars), but Jaguar Land Rover is confident that the technology will make it to market in the next few years. Best get saving, then.

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