Satellite navigation at core of future connected car systems

Momentum is now building for autonomous vehicles, with GNSS as a key component.
Momentum is now building for autonomous vehicles, with GNSS as a key component.

At the joint ‘Insurance Telematics’ and ‘Connected Cars’ conference in London, vehicle manufacturers, software engineers, public authorities and many more heard how GNSS- and internet-enabled vehicles are changing the road transport landscape.

Major vehicle manufacturers are now delivering motor vehicles with connected services for drivers, including real-time traffic and weather reports and accident or road works warnings. More applications are on the way, and the technology systems that support them will enable the increasing number of autonomous vehicles that will soon be cruising down our roads and highways.

A key message from the conference was to see integrated GNSS systems as providing more than just positioning and navigation. For example, with GNSS a wide range of other key services are made possible, including:

  • Precise navigation systems
  • Autonomous vehicles and assisted driving
  • Cooperative ITS
  • Usage-based insurance schemes
  • Road pricing and congestion charging
  • Automated eCall distress signals
  • Intelligent speed adaptation

As to the use of GNSS within the connected car, the trend is for carmakers to take a more important role within GNSS-related services. In fact, by 2020 more and more vehicles with built-in GNSS and fewer ‘nomadic devices’ like portable GNSS receivers will be coming onto the market. This trend is already being seen in prototype autonomous driving cars, where GNSS is viewed as a fundamental enabling technology.

Another advantage that GNSS has within the connected car is that it is complementary to and interoperable with other automotive technologies. Although today we talk about sensor-based versus connection-based solutions for a variety of vehicle services, a ‘converged solution’ seems to be the best alternative, combining the best of both approaches. By integrating sensor data and connectivity-based information operators can reduce the need for the most expensive sensors and, at the same time, save money on infrastructure. Accurate and secure GNSS will help drastically reduce costs, with a single, integrated ‘GNSS engine’ embedded within the vehicle that will provide positioning, navigation and timing for all needs – including many different applications and car functions.

Protecting your car from cyber attacks

With the advent and rapid spread of connectivity in cars, cyber security has suddenly become a major concern within the automotive industry. At a special session on cyber security, Anna Stylianou from SBD explained how new connected technologies, including those specifically aimed at increasing safety, have actually increased the attack surface available to hackers. “As vehicles become completely autonomous, they become more reliant on connected services and GNSS, and even ‘driver fall-back’ in case of error will no longer be an option,” she said. “As a result, the risks associated with hacking or GNSS jamming and spoofing will be even greater.”

Luckily, Galileo, which is set to launch initial services later this year, will play a key role in combating these security threats. “There is an increasing need to deliver a robust GNSS module that can provide an efficient, resilient and low-cost defence against jamming or spoofing attacks,” said GSA Deputy Head of Market Development Fiametta Diani. “Galileo will be a dual frequency service, so it will be resistant to atmospheric interference, and it will have greater resistance to multipath interference, or interference due to signal reflections off buildings and other objects, such as in urban canyons.”

Galileo will also have an authentication signal to detect intentional interference, such as spoofing attacks. “This authentication feature is essentially a digital signature that will be available on the E1 Open Service frequency, but also on the Commercial Service E6 frequency, which will certainly be interesting for autonomous driving,” said Diani.

In a key announcement, Diani cited a new independent study by Broadcom, a major international wireless and broadband company, which confirms Galileo mitigation of multipath effects. “Recent tests by Broadcom show that Galileo E1 is a better solution against multipath than GPS L1,” she said. “The strength of the Galileo signal, together with an advanced code modulation, makes Galileo better at mitigating multipath effects, especially in E5, but also in E1.”

Receivers that support Galileo show better performance in a multipath environment. This is because by supporting more constellations, one increases the chances of being able to select only direct line-of-sight signals. Not only that, but E1 measurements from Galileo satellites are more accurate in multipath environments than L1 measurements from GPS satellites – meaning the effect of multipath is two times smaller with Galileo E1 compared to GPS L1.

The authentication feature will be operational in the Open Service from 2018, at which time Galileo will be the sole and unique GNSS constellation offering such a security feature.

Europe in push for autonomous vehicles

Momentum is now building for autonomous vehicles, with GNSS as a key component, and here the European Union is delivering the policy support to back up this movement. Last April, for example, the transport ministers of all 28 EU Member States signed the ‘Amsterdam Declaration’ during an informal meeting of the Transport Council. The document lays out the specific steps necessary for the development of self-driving technologies in the EU. With this new Declaration, the European Commission and its Member States, along with the transport industry, have pledged to develop rules and regulations for autonomous vehicles – meaning Europe has a shared strategy on connected and autonomous driving.

This clear commitment on the part of the EU means the GSA can move forward with confidence in its support for research in this exciting new area. In fact, several ongoing research projects are already being funded by the GSA under the EU’s research framework budget, including Horizon 2020 projects , ‘Indrive’ and ‘Inlane’; many of which involve such European big-name players as TomTom, Fiat or Renault.

In November, a new call for proposals under the Horizon 2020 Framework Programme will be launched. The call will have a total budget of €33 million and is specifically targeting research in support of GNSS, including autonomous vehicle technologies.

Stay tuned to the GSA website for more information.

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