August 2016

The digital road beckons

On factory floors, in design studios and across organisations, automotive manufacturers — and carmakers in particular — are speaking a language where words such as ‘connected’ and ‘intelligent’ proliferate. Nick Rogers is fluent in this language. The executive director, group engineering, at Jaguar Land Rover (JLR), reckons cars will change more in the next five-to-10 years than they have over the past three decades.

Mr Rogers talks about the digital transformation that will make cars much like smartphones and about JLR’s blueprint to stay ahead with the revolution underway.

Every industry is being transformed by the digital wave. What does this signify?
It’s a sign of the changing world. When I spend time with my daughter and her friends from university, I find that what they value as important are things we as children didn’t really understand, or at least I didn’t. Today’s generation values things for the moment, and I think most of this is enabled by the transformation we are witnessing thanks to the digital revolution.

JLR’s XE and XF range of cars have won a lot of praise. Could you tell us something about the technologies used in these models?
We are extremely proud of the host of technologies used in the XE and the XF as well as the F-PACE. In manufacturing these cars, we have used high levels of aluminium, which makes the vehicles lighter. We are industry leaders in using aluminium technology in vehicles. The other key factor is our Ingenium range of engines, which we launched in 2015. This engine powers the Jaguar XE and XF and also goes into the Land Rover Discovery Sport and Range Rover Evoque.

What was the thinking behind the Ingenium engine?
We wanted to develop engines that would fit into our global markets in terms of size. We have a commitment to lower our CO2 average which we have already reduced by 25 percent since 2007. That was the business logic behind manufacturing this family of engines. Next, we looked at basic materials to ensure that the engines are as light as possible. The engineering team at JLR did a vast amount of research to ensure that aspects such as combustion processes, control systems and after-treatment systems are optimised. They have set the benchmark in the industry.

JLR is collaborating with the National Automotive Innovation Centre, Tata Motors European Technical Centre and the University of Warwick for research in pioneering technologies

After the Volkswagen emissions scandal, what is the JLR viewpoint on changes in norms?
Honesty and transparency are in our ethos; that’s what we are all about. We welcome and support the moves by governments to look at real-world driving situations. The transformation that technology has brought to the automotive sector in the past decade has been radical, but the sector is still not focused on real-world driving situations. And that’s the priority at JLR. A natural corollary here is the spotlight on electric vehicles. This is a revolution waiting to unfold.

Could you tell us more about JLR’s Concept_e car?
The Concept_e car is basically about looking at technologies of the future and testing them to understand how systems can work together. We have a platform where engineers, technologists and scientists work together to demonstrate the art of what is possible.

In which areas does JLR work closely with Tata Motors? Do you undertake joint projects?
We are proud that we put together the Jaguar XJ and XE as well as the Range Rover Evoque and Land Rover Discovery Sport, for the Indian market, at Tata Motors’ manufacturing facility in Pune. We continue to look at technologies that we can share, and we are finding ways to support each other on innovation.

We are also working closely with Tata Elxsi, Tata Technologies and Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) in developing new technologies for our vehicles such as our infotainment system that is absolutely pioneering and cutting edge.

What about your collaborations with academic institutions?
JLR is collaborating with the National Automotive Innovation Centre (NAIC), Tata Motors European Technical Centre and the University of Warwick for research in pioneering technologies. The Midlands in the United Kingdom is the place where automotive history was mad; many automotive brands were created here.

What’s JLR’s investment in research and development?
It was more than £3 billion in fiscal 2016. Since the Tata group acquired the company in 2008, JLR’s growth has been remarkable. What I find amazing about former Chairman Ratan Tata and Group Chairman Cyrus P Mistry is that they never tell anybody to do anything. But after a review with them, participants are passionate to do more than when they went into the room. Their key consideration has always been about a sustainable future where we deliver products that the customer wants, and not how quickly we can make a dollar.

What are the core engineering competencies that differentiate JLR from other carmakers?
The passion to deliver a first-rate product is part of our DNA. The Jaguar philosophy is instantly recognisable across our range — blends agility and power and is superb to drive at high speed. The Land Rover exemplifies the same philosophy and breadth of capability across all terrain. In-car technology is vital to today’s driving experience, from intelligent driving aids to advanced systems that combine connectivity, control and entertainment. And that’s what we deliver.

What attributes do the design, engineering and manufacturing teams have to consider to create the products JLR is renowned for?
Our teams work collaboratively, with the focus on innovation. Our design teams come up with stunning designs and a good engineer can get immediate insights on what a particular design is about and how it will translate into a finished product. Quality of execution is equally important, given that this is a game involving precision, fit and finish, and detail. We work as a close-knit family and we love it that way.

What are your views on the connected car?
The impact of digital technology on the automotive sector has been most profound. Going forward, customers will, I expect, want their car to become another device, just like a smartphone. Cars of the future will offer a host of navigation, safety, security and infotainment benefits. JLR’s connected car technologies bring the power of the internet into all vehicles, while enhancing safety by reducing driver distraction.

Some of the technologies we have developed, like the advanced InControl system, ensure that you are always connected to the outside world even while driving. The increase in driver assistance and active safety features are major steps on the journey to autonomous driving.

Will autonomous cars require people with different kinds of specialisations?
Autonomous cars are going to require specialists from a range of fields — communications, software engineering, sensors, infotainment, web technologies and robotics among others. The varied sources of data that are required and the data to be pulled in and processed are humongous.

You have been a member of the JLR family for a long time. Tell us about your experience, particularly after Tata took over JLR.
When I joined in the early 1980s, the company was effectively British Leyland; there have been some extraordinary changes since then. It’s great to be part of a group that has a sustained focus on the future. I would say that the last five years of my career have been the most exciting. There is a lot to learn and explore through this journey.