Warwick U to test location system for intelligent vehicles

May 3, 2018  - By

Intelligent vehicles and smart devices could gain more accurate location awareness by fusing GNSS and Wi-Fi signals. A test for this is the focus of an Innovate UK project led by Spirent Communications and involving the Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG) at the University of Warwick.

The £694k Enhanced Assured Location Simulator Leveraging Wi-Fi and GNSS Sensor Fusion (ELWAG) project will seek to develop and test the pioneering hybrid Wi-Fi and GNSS location system in a cost-effective, repeatable and safe environment so that manufacturers can verify its performance.

International Manufacturing Centre at WMG. (Photo: WMG)

Researchers at WMG, led by Matthew Higgins, will play a significant role in the project. They will take physical layer measurements of both Wi-Fi and GNSS signals in autonomous vehicle scenarios in and around the University of Warwick campus and the local urban road network.

The measurements will then assist in Spirent’s development of an RF propagation model that will overlay RF effects on its Wi-Fi Access Point simulator.

WMG researchers will then perform RF validation and verification activities around the developed model, to provide a level of assurance on its performance.

“The safety and functional assurance of future autonomous vehicles will be one of the many critical paths to large consumer adoption,” said Higgins, who is an associate professor in the intelligent vehicles group at WMG. “Through this project, we will contribute towards providing innovative solutions to the challenges of using sensor fusion in this testing context.”

“This is a highly technical project, which will require a holistic understanding of the signal propagation characteristics between satellites, infrastructure and vehicles. The results will impact future autonomous testing methodologies,” said Erik Kampert, senior research fellow at WMG.

The ELWAG project will run for 18 months, and also involves Chronos Technology.

Project background. Many devices currently rely on a singular location technology (typically GPS), which is one type of the wider eco system of GNSS. These systems, whilst becoming more capable, still suffer at times from the user’s environment — typically in urban areas where buildings and other cityscape features interfere with the signal.

The urban environment is, however, where most users need to know their location to the highest level of accuracy, due to increasing population or device density. Wi-Fi signals exist almost universally within dense urban areas, so there is a possibility of fusing these signals with the GNSS signals to identify one’s location very accurately.

“Currently Wi-Fi access point plus GNSS simulation can only be achieved in an ad hoc manner and does not allow for the testing of moving vehicles, multipath effects, insertion of data errors, spoofing and above all controlled, repeatable testing,” said Mark Holbrow, director of engineering and product development at Spirent’s positioning business unit.

“In the autonomous vehicle sector location accuracy can vary by up to 5 meters, which is unacceptable from a safety perspective. Bringing that accuracy down to 30 centimeters through sensor fusion will have substantial implications for autonomous navigation.”

Self-aware smart devices. The need for smart devices to have a highly accurate self-awareness of their own location, and the location of other smart devices around is becoming increasingly important.

In applications such as autonomous vehicles and transport systems, accurate location awareness is an obvious operational requirement for their safe operation in and around other vehicles, pedestrians or infrastructure.

In the personal devices space, smartwatches, phones and health monitoring and exercise aids are all striving to be able to make a judgment of the user’s state based upon location.

In the emergency and security services space, knowing the location of people and objects is also increasingly important as to target response capabilities effectively.

About the Author: Tracy Cozzens

Senior Editor Tracy Cozzens joined GPS World magazine in 2006. She also is editor of GPS World’s newsletters and the sister website Geospatial Solutions. She has worked in government, for non-profits, and in corporate communications, editing a variety of publications for audiences ranging from federal government contractors to teachers.