New Jaguar Land Rover Engineering Center Designed to Help Make Ireland a Big Player in Autonomous Cars

Jaguar Land Rover’s new software engineering center.

With a splashy new software engineering center now open in Shannon, Ireland, Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) is preparing to play a big role in the future of autonomous vehicles.

Speaking at last month’s Inspirefest 2018, Jaguar Land Rover’s John Cormican stated that Ireland’s west coast is a hotbed of autonomous car activity that could one day rival Detroit in stature.

Much of this development’s new enthusiasm is driven by the  recently established Jaguar Land Rover automotive research center in Shannon, Co Clare. This center is not only developing the technology for electric vehicles, but also aims to give those vehicles Level 4 autonomy.

Cormican is the general manager of Jaguar Land Rover Ireland Vehicle Engineering, which he co-founded in May 2017. Based in Shannon, he and his team are playing an important role in realizing the company’s vision for autonomous, connected, electrified vehicles and shared mobility services.

At Inspirefest, a unique international festival of technology, science, design and the arts, Cormican said,“We want to make Ireland the center of the universe for autonomous vehicles,” according to published reports. He added that the M18, which connects Limerick and Galway, will be the focal point for much of the autonomous vehicle development in Ireland, acting as a testbed for the systems developed at its Shannon site.

The way Cormican sees it, testing autonomous vehicles in Ireland with real challenging conditions will prove just how much potential there is for a future of driverless cars.

“We have grass on the road, we have sheep on the road, we have stones on the road, we have potholes and we have very interesting weather conditions,” he said, in a JLR press release. “If we can get this right for the west of Ireland, we can do it anywhere in the world.”

Additionally, JLR Chief Executive Dr. Ralf Speth told the Irish Times he wants Shannon to become JLR’s center of excellence when it comes to both electric cars, and further down the track, to autonomous cars. The center’s eventual 150 employees will therefore have an influence over the future of Jaguar and Land Rover quite out of proportion to its size in the 43,000-strong global employee roster.

“So the future of mobility will be electric, will depend more and more on electric and infrastructure talking to each other. And we will do all this in Ireland, ” Speth said. “And it can create something very special. Think about it. The people who are working here are experts in electrical and electronic architectures, but also in autonomous. Being an island can be a disadvantage sometimes, but it can also be a huge advantage.”

A world of totally driverless cars, however, may still take some time, Speth said.

Although autonomous technology is a hot topic these days, Speth feels there’s a major hurdle to get over before we can all go autonomous – electric power. “Autonomy from my point of view has to be built on electrification, because the internal combustion engine doesn’t react fast enough to run it autonomously. From my point of view, autonomy is still too dangerous,” he said.