Forget autonomous driving; what you really want is autonomous off-roading.

That’s according to Land Rover, anyway. The company just announced a project called ‘Cortex’, which will allow self-driving cars to go off-road in any weather condition.

Now, you might call this jumping the gun a little. After all, we’re not even close to seeing self-driving cars on the road. But given its whole raison d’être is off-road ability, Land Rover wants to be seen as moving with the times in its own way.

Anyway, here’s how the Cortex system works: It’s a ‘5D’ technique combining acoustic, video, radar, light detection and distance sensing (LiDAR) data live in real-time. Access to this combined data improves the awareness of the environment the car is in.

The system will then teach itself the best way to get over that environment through machine-learning.

That’s the hope, anyway – the project has only just begun. Still, Land Rover is pretty bullish on the whole thing.

“It’s important that we develop our self-driving vehicles with the same capability and performance customers expect from all Jaguars and Land Rovers,” said Chris Holmes, Connected and Autonomous Vehicle Research Manager at Jaguar Land Rover.

“Self-driving is an inevitability for the automotive industry and ensuring that our autonomous offering is the most enjoyable, capable and safe is what drives us to explore the boundaries of innovation. Cortex gives us the opportunity to work with some fantastic partners whose expertise will help us realise this vision in the near future.”

Indeed, while there are strict laws on self-driving cars for the roads, no such laws apply when you’re off the road. This means that we could be much closer to an autonomous off-road future than you might think.

Anyway, Cortex is part of a company-wide push at Jaguar Land Rover to develop cars with various levels of autonomy. Whether or not autonomous off-roading will suck the joy out of the pursuit is anyone’s guess, but we’re interested to see where Cortex goes.