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Current GPS technology isn't reliable enough for fully autonomous vehicles

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October 17, 2016

University researchers are currently working on navigation systems that don't rely solely on satellite signals to work properly, and that's a big thing, considering that current GPS technology does have some limitations.

To be sure, funded research led by the University of California at Riverside (UCR) and presented at a navigation system conference in mid-September, demonstrated how far the world has come in using all the other radio signals that surround us everyday.

The scientists at UCR note that current GPS navigation technology, even when supplemented by inertial navigation systems like gyroscopes, isn't accurate or reliable enough for fully-autonomous vehicles and similar critical applications.

Working with assistant professor Zak Kassas, UCR PhD candidate Joshua Morales supplemented an inertial-plus-satnav system with radio receivers that get a fix on ambient signals: Wi-Fi, AM/FM radio, mobile phone signals, TV transmissions, etc.

But Morales is quick to point out that using these so-called “signals of opportunity” (SOOs) is challenging in itself. The navigation system can't assume it knows their exact location, so instead the on-board receivers learn the signals' timing.

For example, if the vehicle moves in a certain direction, the timing of the ambient wireless signals changes, and that can provide enough data to maintain accurate positioning information even if the navigation system temporarily loses sight of the GPS satellites.

A second university paper demonstrates an SOO system specifically focussing on using LTE base stations, which provide more structured timing and location data, given the improved parameters inherent in today's LTE technology.

The organization which runs GPS standardisation, The Aerospace Corporation, is also in the process of factoring external location sources into the design of GPS 2.0.

Source: The University of California at Riverside.


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