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Intelligent transportation systems require ‘the ego vehicle’

May 8, 2017  - By

Most activity so far in the PNT community has centered around the questions of “Where am I?” and “Where am I going?” and “How fast am I going?” Positioning, navigation and timing. Seemingly that should about cover it. But no.

Mapping comes into the picture: “What fixed objects are in my environment?” This is actually a corollary of “Where am I?” though let’s not put too fine a point on it.

All this “I” business. To get to driverless cars and other autonomous vehicles, we will have to look beyond the first person singular, what some researchers call “the ego vehicle.” We must know, with a high degree of precision and certainty, “Where are other moving vehicles?” and “Where are they going?” and “How fast are they moving?” Another order of magnitude, if not several. PNT squared, as it were.

In the fast oncoming intelligent transportation systems (ITS), future driving (very much present and evolving now) will rely on accurate, reliable and continuous knowledge of the position of other so-called road participants. That’s not just cars, trucks, motorcycles and buses, but includes pedestrians and bicycles and who knows what else — skateboards?

The first approaches to this requirement use on-board ranging sensors such as camera/vision systems, radar, laser scanners and more. (Some of this “more” is explored in this May’s print cover story, “Look Around.”) This already calls for a significant level of integration with GNSS and inertial systems of the ego.

But it’s still not enough. A cooperative approach must develop, in which the other road participants actively support the continuous estimation of all relative positions. Not only must they have all the sensors the ego possesses, they must continually communicate all that data with the ego, and conversely. This is what’s called “connectivity.”

It’s almost as if vehicles are becoming sentient, expressive beings. A bit like us. Bringing new meaning to the expression “the automobile as an extension of the self.”

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