Land Rover went a little bland with the design on their Discovery Vision Concept, but they made a good effort to compensate by cramming in a Starship Enterprise complement of gadgets. And the remote-control driving feature is far and away the coolest one.
The concept Discovery uses lasers to survey terrain and determine the depth of water that might be in the vehicle's path. It uses that information to create a 3D map of the ground, which it feeds to the driver through visuals overlaid onto the windshield a la "enhanced imaging" in a Mech Warrior video game.
Meanwhile, the vehicle's Terrain Response computer configures rate of throttle input, suspension settings, and other details that optimize its performance in the given conditions.
With that dump of information the Land Rover can hypothetically guide itself over and around off-road obstacles while you're bingeing on Netflix in the passenger seat.
But if you don't want your car to have all the fun, the Discovery concept can relegate steering control to your smartphone, table, or a special remote over short-range WiFi.
You'd basically get to steer the SUV through a giant wheel icon on your screen while speed is managed through basically an advanced cruise control that knows how fast the vehicle can go based on where it is.
Not sure if Land Rover considered that a lot of extreme off-roading goes down where 4G coverage is still a myth, but they probably figure they won't have to worry about that when everybody ends up using this to parallel park in Manhattan.
Dr Wolfgang Epple, Director of Research and Technology at Jaguar Land Rover says:
"We see the autonomous car taking away the boring, the tedious, the routine part of the journey while allowing the driver to actively stay in contact, do some work, or relax with the vehicle's infotainment system. But when the driver wants to enjoy the driving experience, our new driver assistance systems will give them more because customers will still want to be engaged with their vehicle. A smarter car should not take away driving pleasure – it should enhance the driver's experience on- and off-road."
I'm sure some version of this will end up in showrooms soon; low-speed autonomous driving is already a thing, and Land Rover's terrain-response tech is already impressive.
Ghost-riding the whip over rivers and through the woods from a little digital wheel on an iPhone doesn't sound like my idea of an epic off-road adventure, but I'm sure the Rover crowd would get a real kick out of it down at the country club.