UC Riverside team developing non-GPS nav system for autonomous vehicles

October 13, 2016  - By

A team of researchers at the University of California, Riverside has developed a highly reliable and accurate navigation system that exploits existing environmental signals such as cellular and Wi-Fi, rather than GPS.

The technology can be used as a standalone alternative to GPS, or complement current GPS-based systems to enable highly reliable, consistent, and tamper-proof navigation. The technology could be used to develop navigation systems that meet the stringent requirements of fully autonomous vehicles, such as driverless cars and unmanned drones.

Led by Zak Kassas, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering in UCR’s Bourns College of Engineering, the team presented its research at the 2016 Institute of Navigation Global Navigation Satellite System Conference (ION GNSS+), in Portland, Ore., in September. The two studies, “Signals of Opportunity Aided Inertial Navigation” and “Performance Characterization of Positioning in LTE Systems,” both won best paper presentation awards.

Most navigation systems in cars and portable electronics use the space-based GNSS. For precision technologies, such as aerospace and missiles, navigation systems typically combine GPS with a high-quality on-board inertial navigation system (INS), which delivers a high level of short-term accuracy but eventually drifts when it loses touch with external signals.

Despite advances in this technology, current GPS/INS systems will not meet the demands of future autonomous vehicles for several reasons: First, GPS signals alone are extremely weak and unusable in certain environments like deep canyons; second, GPS signals are susceptible to intentional and unintentional jamming and interference; and third, civilian GPS signals are unencrypted, unauthenticated and specified in publicly available documents, making them spoofable. Current trends in autonomous vehicle navigation systems therefore rely not only on GPS/INS, but a suite of other sensor-based technologies such as cameras, lasers and sonar.

“By adding more and more sensors, researchers are throwing ‘everything but the kitchen sink’ to prepare autonomous vehicle navigation systems for the inevitable scenario that GPS signals become unavailable. We took a different approach, which is to exploit signals that are already out there in the environment,” Kassas said.

Here is a video describing the project.

 

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