Motoring Trailblazers - Lucas-Jaguar Prometheus

Sun 21st Oct 2018

The world of motoring is hurtling headlong into a bright new future of all-electric, automated, connected technology - and Marty McFly is not behind the wheel! But what were the cars that were ‘back to the future’ of years gone by?

There have been many different trailblazing motors which were seen by the critics to be ahead of their time, and in this series, we will investigate and showcase many of the best in class.

Lucas-Jaguar Prometheus
Mad as it may seem, when project Prometheus (Program for European Traffic of Highest Efficiency and Unprecedented Safety) was launched in the early 1990s, there were many snooty opinions of the critics that making cars more automated would take out all the joy and soul of driving. But those comments didn’t dissuade the likes of Jaguar, Saab, BMW and Ford from pressing forward to challenge and develop technologies which would make motoring safer.

The prospect of cars controlled by computers, which would use infrared technology to allow vehicles to monitor speed and distance from others, seemed like the stuff of science fiction. But the technology had already been deployed in the first Gulf War in Iraq and manufacturers were keen to road test the tech.

“The main objective of our project is first improving safety and then the efficiency of the flow of traffic, Lucas Automotive’s Don Hiett said of their partnership with Jaguar. The classic English car company had been trialling three examples of the technology with vision enhancement allowing drivers to better see in low-visibility conditions. The technology was already used by military tanks to pinpoint precise targets in low visibility conditions.

The second technology used microwave radar sensors to measure the safe distance between the driver and other cars, computers controlling both the brakes and throttle.

A final piece of tech being tested involved a collision avoidance system which could adjust steering and braking if the car’s onboard computer detected that the driver was going off the side of the road, setting off alarms if this was the case.

Peter Martin, systems manager of Lucas Automotive said in a New York Times article from September 1992 that: “We must not get technically too carried away because the average guy must drive the vehicle. It’s not like training your fighter pilot.

“At the moment, we are working on systems that warn rather than interfere. Systems that take over will happen eventually.”