Land Rover is one of the UKs most loved vehicle manufacturers, and a giant of British engineering. Since 1948 the company has released iconic vehicle after iconic vehicle, from the Safari ready Series I through to the modern luxury of the Range Rover and Discovery Sport models.
A large part of Land Rovers continued success has always come from the companys ability to combine the heritage styling of its most loved vehicles with new and innovate technology, keeping with the times whilst satisfying customers who are still looking for the classic features theyve come to know and love.
However ground-breaking the manufacturers new vehicles might be, the company has always had one foot firmly in the past by no means a negative thing. However, two recent announcements suggest that Land Rover is looking to shift its focus, and look towards the future.
Defender: Retirement and Resurrection
In January 2016, the 67 year old icon that is the Land Rover Defender was assembled for one last time at Solihull, leaving fans of the 4×4 hankering to hear news of its future. They didnt have to wait long, as shortly after the news of the Defenders retirement, a second coming was announced; the new Defender, set to be released in 2019.
With a new Defender concept – the DC100 – unveiled back in 2011, Land Rover have revamped their design, promising their new Defender will be very different, whilst retaining all that makes the original so unique.
Despite the problems the Defender range raised largely, a labour-intensive production process and engines which struggled to meet Euro 6 regulations – it remains a fan favourite in the Land Rover range. The manufacturer is determined to continue the Defender line thanks to its reputation as the embodiment of 4×4 motoring.
The new iterations of the Defender are not expected to grow much in size, and are looking to be modern and simple in design. Some setbacks in the new vehicles production stem from debate over where they should be produced. While greater capacity for production may be found overseas (with a factory in Slovakia being considered), it is argued that, as an icon of British motoring, the Defender line should be produced on British soil.
Self-Driving Tech Brought to UK
Shortly after the news of the Defenders retirement, Land Rover made another step into the future. In early February, the company announced they would be using a 41 mile stretch of road between Coventry and Solihull as a testing location for autonomous driving technology; self-driving vehicles.
The tech in question is a sensor system that would enable vehicles to instantly download information from overhead gantries down the motorway, updating the car with information such as queues, icy roads, traffic jams and accident warnings. The technology, known as vehicle to infrastructure communication, or V2I, would run alongside V2V vehicle to vehicle communication. This means a link between cars on the road, making collisions less likely as the vehicles sensors would instantly react to obstacles in the road; for example, if the vehicle in front suddenly slammed on the breaks.
With this technology perfect, it would help roads to operate at maximum capacity and reduce congestion, as cars would be able to form a perfectly synced line down the motorway, with only small gaps between them, meaning less wasted space.
Land Rover is set to invest around £5,000,000 into the project, which it refers to as the worlds first self-learning car. The testing has only recently been green lighted by the government, and will be one of the first times that driverless cars are tested in the UK, making Land Rover one of the key British manufacturers working in this area.
For fans of the manufacturers more heritage vehicles the Defender and self-driving technology news might seem alienating. However, Land Rover is in fact doing what it has always done, rising to the challenge, quietly innovating, and working to bring world leading technology and vehicles to the masses.