Building the E-GNSS engine for self-driving car

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19 December 2016

In 2015, the European GNSS Agency (GSA) launched Fundamental Elements, an R&D funding mechanism supporting the development of global navigation satellite system-(GNSS) enabled chipsets, receivers and antennas. The mechanism aims to support the development of innovative chipset and receiver technology that industry would not invest in on its own initiative, thus accelerating their integration of Galileo and EGNOS into market-ready devices. The end goal is to develop close-to-market chipsets, receivers and antennas in targeted markets. The first project to come out Fundamental Elements is dedicated to the automotive segment.      

With connected vehicles and autonomous driving vehicles being the most relevant trend in the automotive sector – both now and for the foreseeable future – there is a clear need to provide accurate and reliable positioning information for safety-critical applications. Within the context of road transportation, safety-critical applications are defined as those that possess the potential to, directly or indirectly, avoid causing harm to humans, destroying the vehicle or damaging external property or the environment. Autonomous driving, advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) and dangerous goods transportation are all included in this group.

Also read: Driving towards the autonomous vehicle

The traditional way of providing the required accurate and reliable positioning information is to make use of multiple sources of sensor data. The problem with this approach is that it requires the use of such sophisticated equipment as radar/lidar-based sensor and cameras, which tend to be expensive. Furthermore, as this equipment is not specifically designed for use with automotive consumer applications, it is not fully suitable to provide reliable positioning information.

A dedicated solution
The European Safety Critical Applications Positioning Engine (ESCAPE) project aims to overcome these multiple challenges by developing a dedicated, reliable and accurate engine, specifically designed for automotive safety-critical applications. The ESCAPE project is funded under the Fundamental Elements Development of E-GNSS engine for safety-critical multi-applications in road transport call.

Read this: Satellite navigation at core of future connected car systems

The project consortium includes stakeholders from across the automotive value chain, including Renault, FICOSA, GMV and ST. Under the ESCAPE umbrella, these companies are pooling their complementary competences and pre-existing knowledge to develop an innovative positioning engine that exploits European GNSS (E-GNSS) differentiators and will be available for future commercialisation. Ultimately, the project will develop the first multi-constellation Galileo chipset receiver with multi-frequency capability specifically adapted to road applications – and in particular autonomous vehicles. 

Re-defining the state of the art
According to project researchers, the ESCAPE engine will surpass current definitions of ‘state of the art’. “For the first time, an E-GNSS engine will provide an integrity-focused, safety-critical positioning system that fully integrates GNSS, on-board sensors, cameras and maps,” says GSA Head of Market Development Gian Gherardo Calini. The engine’s core features include:

  • a GNSS/Galileo multi-constellation, multi-frequency chipset for road applications
  • use of the precise point positioning (PPP) service
  • hybridisation of cameras, maps, vehicle sensors and GNSS integrated into a tight coupling filter
  • provision of an integrity layer to the exploited technologies
  • optional capability to implement navigation message authentication

Over the course of three years, these technologies will be integrated into the resulting ESCAPE engine. At that point, the engine will be close to commercialisation, with rapid market uptake expected.

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Updated: Dec 08, 2022