Land Rover Discovery Vision concept charts its path with lasers

The Discovery Vision concept, unveiled during the 2014 New York auto show, includes a wide array of technologies aimed at scanning and coping with difficult terrain.

Wayne Cunningham Managing Editor / Roadshow
Wayne Cunningham reviews cars and writes about automotive technology for CNET's Roadshow. Prior to the automotive beat, he covered spyware, Web building technologies, and computer hardware. He began covering technology and the Web in 1994 as an editor of The Net magazine.
Wayne Cunningham
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Land Rover Discovery Vision concept
Land Rover debuted the Discovery Vision concept at the New York auto show. Wayne Cunniingham/CNET

NEW YORK -- When Land Rover calls its Discovery Vision concept, unveiled at the 2014 New York International Auto Show, a "leisure SUV," you might think the company is backing off its legendary off-roading capability. That notion would appear to be wrong, given the incredible array of futuristic terrain technology Land Rover describes for this concept.

Rather than expand on its Terrain Response System, which controls differentials and braking to cope with difficult terrain, the Discovery Vision concept employs lasers to scan the trail ahead to help vehicle and driver. Infrared lasers map the ground to let the concept's four-wheel-drive systems adjust and help the driver find the most passable route. These lasers also scan water depth to let the driver know if a river is too deep to ford.

In addition, cameras under the front of the concept capture the part of the trail the driver cannot see. That imagery is projected on the windshield as augmented reality, making it appear as if the front is transparent. Read more about Land Rover's Transparent Bonnet technology.

Laser headlights, a technology also being developed by Audi and BMW, throw a bright beam ahead, and can quickly adjust so as not to blind oncoming traffic.

Land Rover Discover Vision concept (pictures)

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As a particularly cool trick, the driver can remote control the Discovery Vision concept for low-speed maneuvers. That might help when hooking up a trailer, parking in a very tight spot, or passing over an unstable bridge, where the driver might not want to risk his own life.

Although the Discovery Vision concept shows what a future sub-line of Discovery vehicles might look like, it does away with the stepped roof of its predecessor, the Discovery, or LR2, model. Its main design call-out to that model comes in the way the rear sailplane undercuts the roof.

Land Rover did not specify any sort of drivetrain for the Discovery Vision concept, but has said a new model, called the Discovery Sport and based on the concept, will come out next year. Oddly, considering the dimensions of the Discovery Vision concept, Land Rover defines the new production model as a "premium compact SUV."