The ESCAPE project, funded under the European GNSS Agency’s (GSA) Fundamental Elements programme, is developing an innovative positioning engine that exploits the newly available capabilities of Galileo.
With the declaration of Galileo Initial Services, companies, service providers and developers can now take full advantage of the more precise positioning and better performance that Galileo provides. All one needs is a Galileo-enabled chipset and/or receiver.
In the road transportation sector, the ESCAPE project (European Safety Critical Applications Positioning Engine) is doing just that: using Galileo to provide users with better positioning and performance.
The project could prove critical in the advancement of the connected vehicle and autonomous driving, both of which require accurate and reliable positioning information for safety-critical applications. Whereas traditionally this positioning information is provided via multiple sources of sensor data, doing so requires the use of expensive radar/Lidar-based sensors and cameras not specifically designed for road transport use. In order to be viable, autonomous vehicles must offer both a cost-effective and a safe solution.
Bringing Galileo to road transport
For the ESCAPE project, this balance can be found in its innovative positioning engine that exploits the newly available capabilities of Galileo. In parallel with the launch of Galileo Initial Services, the project is developing a Galileo-enabled chipset to be integrated into its dedicated engine designed specifically for automotive safety-critical applications. “The project is developing the first multi-constellation Galileo chipset receiver offering multi-frequency capability adapted to road applications – and in particular autonomous vehicles,” says Project Coordinator Jessica García. “The chipset will be integrated in an onboard positioning unit with unique localisation features that are tailored to the needs expressed by the applications of autonomous driving.”
The ESCAPE positioning engine is built on four core innovations. First, the engine integrates different localisation data sources, including multi-constellation/multi-frequency global navigation satellite systems (GNSS), intelligent cameras, inertial units, vehicle odometer and advanced navigation maps. Second, the integrity level it provides measures the trust associated with the real-time location estimates. “This degree of trust regarding the information provided to the vehicle is crucial for its use in safety-critical applications involving high levels of automation,” explains García.
Core features of the ESCAPE engine
- a GNSS/Galileo multi-constellation, multi-frequency chipset for road applications
- use of the precise point positioning (PPP) service
- hybridisation of cameras, maps, vehicle sensors and GNSS integrated into a tight coupling filter
- provision of an integrity layer to the exploited technologies
- capability to implement navigation message authentication.
Third, the project integrates the engine into a vehicle with autonomous driving capabilities. As a result, it fully enables the vehicle’s autonomous operations with a close-to-market engineered architecture. And last but not least, the engine will be the first solution featuring authentication provided by OS-NMA, an important Galileo differentiator.
Recently, the project reached an important milestone: the identification of the user-level requirements and the finalisation of a user-level safety analysis. “These user-level achievements are important because a major element that influences the design of the positioning engine is the level of automation that the user expects these vehicles to provide,” explains García.
To translate these requirements into solutions, the ESCAPE project has mapped user-level expectations into five major case studies. For each case, the project identified one or more test paths for the vehicle where algorithms and functionalities are to be tested. “This approach guarantees that the design of the engine is driven by actual user needs,” says García. “As a result, we will end up with a near-market-ready, safety-orientated GNSS-based engine set to transform road vehicle automation.”
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.
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