Land Rover's robo-SUVs will take away the tedious and just leave the fun

Land Rover Vision
Land Rover's Vision is much more than just a show car

Land Rover's hot new Discovery Vision isn't just a concept.

It's the launch vehicle for Land Rover's plans to bring self-driving, gesture-controlled, augmented-reality, cloud-connected and generally super-smart SUVs to market inside 10 years.

As it happens, it wasn't the only launch vehicle on display during a stunning event aboard the USS Intrepid aircraft carrier on the New York water front. Virgin Galactic's Space Ship One made an appearance, too.

For Land Rover, though, the Vision concept is a tour-de-force of technology that comprehensively blows apart conventional notions of SUVs as big, dumb, lumbering beasts.

Land Rover Vision

Link to Virgin Galactic tenuous, but the Vision concept is packed with intriguing tech

Highlights include augmented reality allowing drivers to see right through the bonnet to the ground beneath, smart glass tech that turns windows into high-def, context-aware displays and an inevitable dose of Minority Report-style arm-flapping.

Question is, exactly how much of this should you take seriously? How much is actually likely to see production? And how much is the usual conceptual hubris that's all too easy to talk about but much harder to deliver?

The roll call of clever new technologies is certainly incredibly ambitious. Luckily, we're out in New York and we've had a good sniff around the concept and posed a few searching questions to the right people.

First, let's cover some of the details. On the in-car side there are several big innovations in the concept and under development. First out of the box is the new In Control app. It's Land Rover's take on smartphone syncing and integration. We'll be looking in more detail at that new platform at the show itself, so we'll leave that for a separate story.

Land Rover Vision

In Control App is coming soon

The other technologies are further out and arguably more speculative. Most realistic at this stage is gesture control as part of Land Rover's dual quests to reduce both the number of switch-gears and driver distraction.

Suggested gestures includes hand swipes to open doors and control multimedia functionality. It ties in with another new tech - smart glass. The idea here is transparent OLED dislays embedded in the windows.

That allows for everything from tinting windows at the flick of a wrist to displaying context-relevant information as you drive along. You might give rear seat passengers interesting info about the sights and scenery, for instance.

Land Rover Vision

In-car is just one part of a multi-pronged vision of future SUV tech

The smart glass also enables Land Rover's transparent bonnet tech. This is all about improving visibility when off-roading. The ability to see right through the bonnet courtesy of a virtual version of what's beneath rendered in the windscreen OLED display would be one hell of a feature.

Cloud connectivity is another part of the package and it's interesting to here Land Rover being up front about the fact that speech recognition is better done server side in the cloud than in-car. Makes sense to us, although for vehicles that could be used in remote locations, internet connectivity could prove problematical.

But it's only the beginning of what Land Rover reckons it has in the pipeline. Another major area of development is autonomous driving. Part of Land Rover's pitch here is similar to most car makers – safer travel, better traffic flow. You know the drill.

Land Rover Vision

Transparent bonnet is a headline grabber, but autonomous features could change the way you drive

To that, Land Rover is adding an off-road angle. What if your SUV could drive autonomously through a farm gate? You'd only have to get out to open and close the gate once.

And what if you could stand outside your SUV and act as spotter when driving through really tough, boulder strewn terrain? Suddenly, you could go places and one-up that previously required spotter and driver.

Land Rover reckons these features could be enabled by a sort of remote control using a tablet device.

Another really interesting piece of off-road tech is the use of lasers to gauge water depth. No more wading and depth gauging required. Your Landie would simply know if the water ahead was too deep.


Technology and cars. Increasingly the twain shall meet. Which is handy, because Jeremy (Twitter) is addicted to both. Long-time tech journalist, former editor of iCar magazine and incumbent car guru for T3 magazine, Jeremy reckons in-car technology is about to go thermonuclear. No, not exploding cars. That would be silly. And dangerous. But rather an explosive period of unprecedented innovation. Enjoy the ride.