The ESCAPE project, funded under the European GNSS Agency’s (GSA) Fundamental Elements programme, has completed the preliminary design of its ESCAPE GNSS Engine (EGE), an innovative positioning engine that leverages the Galileo signal to provide a critical positioning component in autonomous vehicles.
To navigate autonomously and safely, vehicles require perception systems that locate, recognise, identify, and classify objects around them. The more complex the navigation functions, the more sensors are needed to achieve the degree of robustness required to drive safely in complex traffic conditions. This is where GNSS-based absolute location estimates come in.
Robust and safe positioning
The EGE prototype design includes several major components: a novel multi-frequency, multi-constellation GNSS receiver chipset for automotive use; the hardware and software architectures; and the algorithms for data fusion, positioning and integrity. It also covers a safety analysis of all the elements of the positioning engine. Consequently, the EGE will enable vehicles to navigate in high automation modes (SAE level 4) in various operational environments.
The positioning capability of the EGE is based on a complex algorithm produced by the GNSS sensor. Its measurements are integrated with those from an inertial unit (IMU) to provide the baseline standard point positioning function. A second positioning level is provided by precise point positioning, which gets sets of precise corrections from the Internet for the GNSS measurements. Finally, camera-based positioning, enabled by the processing of high-definition maps with lane markings and merged with other vehicle sensors, offers a third level of positioning, enhancing the other levels to achieve maximum possible accuracy.
The whole architecture of the EGE hardware has been conceived based the most recent practices in the design of automotive electronic control units, so that all the interfaces, configurations and form factors are compliant with widely recognised sector trends.
The GNSS receiver
The main distinguishing feature of the ESCAPE automotive-grade GNSS receiver is its ability to simultaneously process signals from two different GNSS bands and from different satellite constellations. Although this capability is common in high-end professional receivers, it is cutting-edge in the automotive Tier-2 panorama.
The receiver is also a first-of-a-kind device in its segment to support the new Navigation Message Authentication (NMA) service of Galileo, the additional anti-spoofing service to be offered by Galileo on the open E1 signal starting from 2018. Finally, the new GNSS receiver comes with several core signal-processing enhancements: better receiver sensitivity and tracking capability, multipath mitigation, more IF channels and flexibility in routing IF samples, jamming detection and mitigation, and optimisation of the GNSS data flow.
The result is an ESCAPE GNSS sensor that combines in a unique device a high-end GNSS technology traditionally reserved for professional applications, innovative dual-band Galileo processing, as well as all the hardware and software safety aspects that are needed to certify the component for the automotive market.
Launched in October 2016, the ESCAPE project is led by the Spanish company FICOSA in collaboration with GMV, Renault, IFSTTAR, STMicroelectronics and the Istituto Superiore Mario Boella. The project is funded under the European GNSS Agency’s (GSA) Fundamental Elements programme, a research and development (R&D) funding mechanism supporting the development of GNSS-enabled chipsets, receivers and antennas.
The project has now entered its second year, during which the first EGE hardware samples will be released, along with a sequence of three integration steps and tests distributed throughout the year. The second and final hardware release is expected during the project’s third year.
For more information, see: http://www.gnss-escape.eu/
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