June 7, 2023
Jeep has earned a global reputation for adventure with its mantra of “Go Anywhere. Do Anything,” and is plotting a new direction – off-roaders that drive themselves.
The 4x4 specialist has provided a preview by releasing a video that gives a glimpse of the automated tech it is developing for its range of SUVs.
And although the short clip doesn’t give much away in terms of specific detail about what is in store, it offers one or two clues as to what we might expect.
Shot in the desert near Moab, Utah, the video shows a pair of “Trail Rated” Grand Cherokee 4xe plug-in hybrid models tackling the rugged terrain that is a feature of the area and has made it a popular testing location for the brand. Trail Rated means the Grand Cherokees have passed extreme tests in five areas: traction, water fording, maneuverability, articulation and ground clearance.
According to Neda Cvijetic, the head of artificial intelligence and autonomous driving at Jeep’s parent company Stellantis, the new tech is geared toward bringing “more fun, more adventure and more freedom” to Jeep.
“It’s our first time testing these off-road autonomy features in Moab,” she says as she rides in one of the Grand Cherokees. “We are tackling challenges that are in some sense greater than what you experience in on-road autonomy. And that, for any engineer, makes your heart skip a beat.”
While the two SUVs featured don’t look wildly different from the Grand Cherokees we’re accustomed to seeing out on the road, an array of sensors on the roof and other hardware on the roof illustrate that they are far from standard models.
That’s reinforced inside, where the steering wheel is seen turning itself and a large screen has been fitted over the traditional touchscreen. It depicts the Jeep ahead in a green box captioned “Lead,” perhaps suggesting some form of platooning capability is possible. Cvijetic is also shown out of the vehicle holding a tablet that seems to contain a number of driving-related options, but whether she is controlling or merely observing the Jeeps is unclear.
Although part of the massive Stellantis group – which includes Dodge, Ram, Chrysler, Fiat, Peugeot, Citroen, Alfa Romeo, Maserati, Vauxhall, Opel and DS Automobiles – it is understood that the tech Jeep is pursuing is being developed specifically for the brand, which is no great surprise given its unique positioning as an off-road specialist.
Nevertheless, Jeep is likely to lean heavily on the scale of the wider Stellantis empire, which has made a number of deals to bolster its autonomous ambitions over the past 18 months, including agreeing to use Scala Lidar from French firm Valeo and acquiring Hungarian AI company aiMotive late last year. It has also previewed its STLA Brain, STLA Cockpit and STLA AutoDrive tech.
Christian Meunier, Jeep brand CEO, said the Moab tests showcased an exciting future. “In the same way that our 4xe electrification takes Jeep brand’s off-road capability to new heights, these advanced off-road driving systems will help more customers in more countries around world join and enjoy the adventure. These features and technology will have real-life applications on and off the trail in a wide range of driving conditions.”
A more detailed video highlighting the full capabilities of the tech is expected later this summer.
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