Precision GNSS in phones, drones and cars forecast by 2021

October 3, 2016  - By


Low-cost, precision GNSS receivers will become a reality in the driverless car, drone and even smartphone markets by 2021, finds ABI Research. The automotive industry will be the main driver behind precision GNSS receiver adoption, in which centimeter-level accuracy is essential to complete driver safety systems with the redundancy necessary for autonomous vehicles.

“There is a variety of competing technologies currently under investigation by the automotive industry, but ABI Research forecasts it will move to a hybridized approach, combining LIDAR, HD maps, sensor fusion, machine vision and precision GNSS,” says Patrick Connolly, principal analyst. “As the receivers’ average selling price drops below $50, we expect to see a more immediate market for location technology services, such as AR Heads Up Displays (HUDs), in high-end vehicles. Vehicle-to-Vehicle, or V2V, communication might constitute another use case for high-precision GNSS.”

In addition to autonomous vehicles, the report also identifies opportunities for low-cost, precision GNSS receivers in autonomous unmanned vehicles (AUVs), as well as commercial and consumer devices. Though the average selling prices of such GNSS receivers is $1,000 and higher, ABI Research finds the cost to be one of the most addressable inhibitors to market growth today.

“Precision GNSS achieves sub-meter accuracy through a variety of methods, including a network of reference stations,” Connolly¬†says. “The biggest question mark today is not cost-related, but instead how to achieve reliable, worldwide satellite navigation coverage to support correction techniques, such as real time kinematic, or RTK, and precise point positioning, or PPP. This is an extremely expensive undertaking, with currently no guarantee of a return on investment.”

Competition in the location technologies market ranges from crowdfunded startups to Internet giants, reflecting the scale of the opportunity. Traditional precision GNSS receiver vendors like NovAtel have the intellectual property, engineering experience and ownership of correction networks.

In the consumer GNSS receiver market, u-Blox and Skytraq lead the way, according to the report. Each developed low-cost single frequency PPP and RTK receivers, with a clear roadmap toward dual-frequency. Other consumer GNSS providers, like ST Microelectronics, Broadcom and Qualcomm, also appear active in this space.

Start-ups like North Surveying, NVS Technologies, REACH, and Swift Navigation continue to disrupt the industry, bringing low-cost precision receivers to market, said ABI Research.  Their goal is to hit an ASP below $100 in the near future. And Radiosense is a startup that received a lot of attention for its previous work concerning precision GNSS on smartphones. It is now working on automotive solutions in a pilot in Austin, Texas.

Locata has the potential to be the wildcard in the deck, working on a powerful synchronization and location technology that may find its way into consumer technologies by 2021.

“Most interesting in the location technology competitive landscape is the involvement of Internet giants Google and Alibaba,” concludes Connolly. “Google recently announced it will make GPS pseudoranges available to developers, which, although extremely nascent, could open up the door for a lot of innovation. And in China, Alibaba is a major partner in the roll-out of Continuous Operating Reference Stations, or CORS, networks in the region.”

These findings are from ABI Research’s Precision GNSS in Automotive and GNSS IC Design Trends: Modules, Standalone, Combo, and Embedded reports.

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