Galileo is critical for autonomous driving

Published: 
30 November 2018
The high-level panel discussing Galileo contribution to autonomous driving.
The high-level panel discussing Galileo contribution to autonomous driving.

High-ranked representatives from the European Commission and from the automotive industry gathered at a Euractiv forum in Brussels on November 26 to discuss the question - ‘Is Galileo is a critical component for autonomous driving?’ The answer, it seems, is a resounding “Yes!”

Space has become a ubiquitous part of our daily lives and a key element of the European economy, and the importance of space technology to our lives will only increase in the future. In his keynote address at the forum, Pierre Delsaux, Deputy Director General of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs (DG GROW) noted, however, that the development of space technology is not an objective in itself - it is a tool to bring benefits to European citizens. 

“These benefits come in the form of job creation and economic growth and, no less importantly, in the many applications and services that use space technology to improve our lives,” he said.

GNSS is essential

One such area of application, and the focus of the Euractiv event, is the transport sector and, specifically, the area of autonomous driving. Speaking at the forum, Mattias Petschke, Director of EU Satellite Navigation Programmes at DG GROW, outlined what Galileo brings to the table when it comes to autonomous driving. 

Petschke stressed that Galileo is already working and improving the GPS signal that users receive. “With GPS you know which road you are on, with Galileo you know which lane of the road you are on,” he said, adding that GNSS is essential to determine absolute position and also for predictive driving. “GNSS technology is globally available, it does not need any additional local infrastructure and it is available in areas with difficult network coverage,” he said.

A major asset that Galileo has to offer in terms of autonomous driving is its high quality performance. “Galileo offers outstanding availability and accuracy. The Galileo authentication and high accuracy services, which should become operational in 2020, will have an enormous positive impact in many areas, including autonomous driving,” Petschke said.  

The importance of cooperating with industry for the development and uptake of space-based solutions was also highlighted. “The market development department of the European GNSS Agency (GSA) in Prague has been doing excellent work with industry to identify what can be achieved together,” he said, adding that thanks to this work there has been excellent market uptake, with currently all major smartphone models being Galileo enabled.

The industry perspective

“The 20-centimetre accuracy that Galileo will provide will bring a revolution in active safety and will enable cooperative, connected, automated mobility by providing lane positioning, which is very important and something that the industry has been waiting for,” Angelos Amditis, Chairman of ERTICO and Research Director at the National Technical University of Athens said. He noted that this would pave the way towards even higher levels of automation.

With its high accuracy, GNSS will be an essential element of the autonomous vehicle, but will need to be combined with other on-board sensors and systems such as cameras, radar, inertial sensors and so on, in order to have the required accuracy, integrity, reliability and availability on a continuous basis, Amditis said. He stressed that, thanks to its high accuracy, Galileo will play a major role as an enabler of many new services and concepts, such as Mobility as a Service (MaaS) and platooning.

Available and free

Joost Vantomme, Smart Mobility Director at the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA), said that access to new technology would help keep European industry competitive. At the moment, geo-positioning is a convenience, allowing us to know where we are in relation to certain objects. “In the future, geo-positioning will no longer be a convenience, it will be a necessary, critical requirement for automation,” he said.  

Alessandro Coda, Chief Technology Officer at the European Association of Automotive Suppliers (CLEPA) representing 3,000 companies and 5 million employees, said that for autonomous driving the 20 centimetre accuracy that Galileo will offer is already a big result, and that his members are happy with the service that Galileo provides. His one request to the European Commission is: “Keep it always available, keep it always free!”

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Updated: Dec 03, 2018