A number of initiatives across Europe are currently testing a number of practical road transport applications based on the increased accuracy and reliability of the EGNOS and Galileo satellite navigation technologies.
Delegates to the biannual TRA forum on road transport research in Brussels in June 2010 heard the latest developments from a number of collaborative initiatives which are taking technologies from the drawing board into the real world.
One of the leading examples is the GINA (GNSS for INnovative Road Applications) project which is doing large-scale trials of a road user charging (RUC) system using the EGNOS signal.
“EGNOS and Galileo offer cost-effective, flexible and versatile solutions for road user charging (RUC) applications,” said project co-ordinator Sara Gutiérrez-Lanza. “However, there has not been large-scale take off yet. We need to prove the technical and economical feasibility of the systems on a large scale.”
GINA, which started in 2009, is running two sets of trials, both in the Netherlands. “We’re tackling the problem from a realistic perspective, using the requirements defined by real end users,” added Gutiérrez-Lanza.
The first stage, which was completed in April 2010, was a series of “exhaustive performance” tests. Researchers compared systems using the EGNOS signal with those based on GPS and other technologies by repeatedly running two cars (equipped with highly accurate reference equipment) along fixed routes.
They assessed performance in terms of positioning, distance measurement, ‘geo object identification’ and reliability of charging performance. “We are currently analysing the results. It is a complex and iterative process,” said Gutiérrez-Lanza, adding that they expected to get some conclusions very soon.”
Using satellite navigation, the on-board unit identifies when a vehicle passes a given geo-object. It is also used for measuring the distance driven (both inside and outside the geo-objects). However, position errors may occur with systems using GPS and not be detected, which would result in overcharging or mischarging.
“Position integrity is the added advantage that EGNOS gives, together with other algorithms running onboard,” continued Gutiérrez-Lanza.
An additional advantage is that the system does not require any additional sensors or roadside infrastructure, she added.
“End to end” trials, involving around 100 drivers are currently starting and will last for six months. They will assess how well the system works in practice and gain extra user feedback.
The volunteers taking part have units fitted to their cars and drive as normal. Information on their journeys is collected and analysed.
Gutiérrez-Lanza said that drivers will have the opportunity to check their “virtual” invoices on a services platform and get other information on their journeys, based on the ABvM system being proposed by the Dutch government. “The key data gathered can be exploited in different ways and we will gain extra feedback from the drivers.”
“We will propose a business plan based on the results, as well as the other value-added services,” she said. Sectors where these would be relevant to include the safety, insurance or road management sectors, she added and would be based on feedback from real end-users including leasing companies and highway operators.
Enabling closer monitoring
The SCUTUM project is another on-going research effort to develop and testing systems using EGNOS to track dangerous and regulated goods transport – which will do field tests in France, Austria and Italy.
“For these sorts of applications it is really important to have precise and reliable information,” said Irene Fusco from project partners the European Union Road Federation (ERF). “Companies need to be able to see the exact and guaranteed position of these types of goods, especially when they are being loaded or uploaded for instance. With systems based on GPS there was always a doubt.”
The project is a follow up to the MENTORE project which ran trials in Italy in 2008. “MENTORE resulted in the adoption of EGNOS by the major Italian oil company ENI (also operating at international level) for remotely monitoring its trucks,” added Fusco.
That project did demonstrations on specific applications for dangerous goods, livestock, disabled people, comparing on-board units using GPS and EGNOS signals.
“With SCUTUM, the system is evolving and we want demonstrate the commercial applications that it will enable,” she continued. Attendees at the event were able to see real time demonstration of the system with a tanker being tracked around Rome live on screen.
The demonstration is using the EGNOS Open Service broadcasted through the open signal and EGNOS Commercial Service distributed by a server called EDAS, she added. This means the EGNOS signal is also provided through terrestrial networks such as the internet or mobile telecommunication networks.
“This improves the reliability of the EGNOS services even further, which is especially important in cities as there can get interference, from buildings for instance,” she said. “The demonstration shows EGNOS services provide accurate and guaranteed positioning, suitable to monitor the transport of dangerous and regulated goods.”
With large-scale trails involving over 100 vehicles in cross-border traffic, SCUTUM is also widening the scope of the research from MENTORE to aid its real world application in the road transport sector. “In addition to helping to bring the technology to maturity, we are also involving public authorities in looking at the regulations. Another part of the project is looking at standardisation,” she said.
Together with the European committee for standards, CEN, the project is hosting a workshop to launch a standardization process. “The CEN workshop provides a flexible standardization procedure. At the end of the project we will have an agreement for a standard for EGNOS use for dangerous goods,” said Fusco. “It will be applicable to other sectors too.”
Galileo is the EU’s future satellite navigation system, currently under development. EGNOS, Europe’s ‘pre- Galileo' system, is a satellite-based augmentation system that is currently in operation. It improves the accuracy of the open public service offered by GPS. EGNOS Data Access System (EDAS) distributes raw data directly from the EGNOS system in real-time via terrestrial networks, within guaranteed delay, security and performance standards.
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