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Q and A: Location Tech for Autonomous Vehicles

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April 15, 2021—Location technology is crucial to a connected vehicle ecosystem that will support full vehicle autonomy. It's already crucial for drivers who are navigating every day.

Most are familiar with GPS (global positioning system), but that's just a subset of GNSS (global navigation satellite system), which can involve any array of satellites that provide location services.

Trimble is an expert in global positioning technology, and the company recently announced a partnership with VSI Labs to work on autonomous vehicle solutions. A press release on the partnership said that Trimble's technology optimizes for a continual connection, which is essential for autonomous driving. If there's an obstruction, Trimble's technology can "augments its precise GNSS positioning with inertial technology to maintain continuous positioning and orientation while on the road," the press release says.

To learn more about GNSS technology and its application in vehicles, ADAPT reached Stephen Ruff, general manager of Trimble’s On-Road Autonomy Division, for a quick Q and A.



Tell us about the role of positioning technology like GNSS in automotive roles like ADAS features and autonomy.

GNSS is one element of a comprehensive positioning technology stack that supports robust and safe ADAS and fully-autonomous vehicle systems. GNSS is the one technology that locates a vehicle anywhere in the world. It can initialize the positioning system and bridge the gaps in the perception (computer vision) and other localization technologies.

How accurate can GNSS be in these applications?

GNSS with PPP (precise point positioning) correction augmentation is capable of 2cm levels of accuracy using precision-grade receiver and antenna components in agricultural applications. Using automotive-grade components in an urban highway environment, augmented GNSS achieves accuracies in the 20cm range. This level of accuracy suits ADAS applications requiring lane discipline. Integrating GNSS with inertial sensors improves accuracies to better than 10cm in the same environment.

How is the technology of global positioning/GPS/GNSS evolving or improving?

Today, manufacturers of automotive-grade GNSS components offer multi-frequency/multi-constellation receivers meeting the quality, price and performance requirements for ADAS and AV applications. These manufacturers continue to improve the measurement quality output by these devices which directly leads to improvements in positioning accuracy. Multiple companies now offer augmentation services supporting GNSS PPP for automotive applications. As the industry pursues sub-decimeter levels of accuracy on the road, antenna technology plays a key role, and the GNSS elements will evolve beyond the old shark fin designs.

How might that technology be used for the next evolution of ADAS features?

GNSS with PPP augmentation enables Level 2+ autopilot applications today. Vehicle OEMs now have Level 3+ self-driving applications in the planning stage and we now receive GNSS positioning RFQs requiring 20cm accuracy along with safety certification (ISO26262). Today, a new vehicle may have up to four separate GNSS receivers onboard (navigation, telematics, V2X, security). In the next five years, we expect that new vehicles will have a single GNSS-enabled positioning utility that feeds all location-based applications on the vehicle and this utility will meet the more stringent ADAS requirements for performance and safety.

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