Stories of science: Navigating the motorways with pinpoint accuracy
Navigation systems which will guide cars and trucks along motorways and through busy city centres with the utmost precision are no longer the stuff of science fiction. GPS researchers Christiaan Tiberius and Peter de Bakker are testing innovative ways of improving the accuracy and availability of navigation systems. Their research may also bring the introduction of self-driving vehicles one step closer.
There was a time when GPS researchers would seek out open spaces where the signal of overflying navigation satellites could be picked up easily, Tiberius says. But times have changed. ‘These days we are doing the exact opposite. We specifically look for areas with poor GPS reception.’
This explains why fellow researcher Peter de Bakker, who, like Tiberius, works at the Geoscience and Remote Sensing department at TU Delft’s faculty of Civil Engineering and Geosciences, regularly finds himself driving along the same stretch of the A15 motorway near Rotterdam. ‘There is a very tall noise barrier there and if you drive close enough to it, it effectively blocks the GPS signal.’
The car journeys of the two engineers are part of the testing process of new techniques which will eventually help create a navigation system with close to a 100% availability rate and near-perfect positioning. An added advantage is that it will also be cheap enough for general use. Tiberius and De Bakker think the development of the system may also accelerate the introduction of self-driving vehicles where drivers no longer have to worry about what their fellow road users are doing.
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