close
Wednesday February 01, 2023

GPS could go obsolete soon

In densely populated cities, a new hybrid optical wireless network can track automobiles within four inches and is more precise than GPS

By Web Desk
December 06, 2022
Car dashboard with an apple map open on the phone.— Unsplash
Car dashboard with an apple map open on the phone.— Unsplash

In densely populated cities, a new hybrid optical wireless network can track automobiles within four inches and is more precise than GPS.

Future roads may soon be dominated by self-driving cars, which could be a frightening thought given the faulty and out-of-sync global navigation satellite systems in place today. 

American GPS and European Galileo navigation networks rely on satellite systems, which frequently have their signals blocked or reflected through a process known as multipath propagation, according to Dutch researchers at the Delft University of Technology and Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.

The team wants to connect their system to a highly precise atomic clock, which could transmit perfectly timed position data, and expand on existing mobile network tools.

They have created a real-time pinpoint positioning system known as "SuperGPS" that offers connectivity akin to current mobile and Wi-Fi networks. 

One of the main objectives of the project is that self-driving cars, law enforcement, and navigation app users won't have to rely on unreliable satellite radio signals. Current global positioning systems frequently struggle with the innate satellite reception problem, especially in metropolitan settings.

“In a busy city centre with a lot of high buildings two effects can come into play: the buildings can block the signal and in tunnels, there is no coverage at all. An incoming signal can also be distorted when signals bounce off the façades of buildings,” said GPS researcher Peter De Bakker in a university release.

What is the problem with the GPS systems we use right now?

According to the authors, current global navigation satellite systems (GNSS), which include GPS and Galileo, can vary by hundreds of metres, which "might actually be catastrophic if you are in a self-driving car." 

GPS signals from radio and satellite sources are frequently reflected and can befuddle navigational equipment, especially in close proximity to large structures.

In metropolitan areas, GPS may become unreliable as a result, according to research co-author Christian Tiberius. This, he thinks, presents a challenge if we eventually utilise automated vehicles. He added that many location-based applications and navigational gadgets used by citizens and our authorities rely on GPS. and the absence of a backup GPS system is obvious.

The optical and wireless advancements made by Dutch researchers make use of infrastructure resources now employed by significant mobile communication networks like AT&T, Verizon, France's Orange, and Germany's Deutsche Telekom. Atomic clocks that are currently installed in many contemporary automobiles will be used to synchronise fibre-optic Ethernet networks and a constellation of radio transmitters.

“We realized that with a few cutting-edge innovations, the telecommunication network could be transformed into a very accurate alternative positioning system that is independent of GPS,” said Jeroen Koelemeij of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, according to a report by Study Finds.

How efficient is the new system?

According to the research team, they are working on a system that uses radio waves with a significantly bigger bandwidth to enable the best positioning precision. The study's findings, which were published in the journal Nature, demonstrate that the navigation system used by the scientists was precise in metropolitan areas to within 10 centimetres, or less than four inches.

“Buildings reflect radio signals, which can confuse navigation devices. The large bandwidth of our system helps sort out these confusing signal reflections, and enables higher positioning accuracy,” wrote Gerard Janssen of Delft University of Technology.

“At the same time, bandwidth within the radio spectrum is scarce and therefore expensive. We circumvent this by using a number of related small-bandwidth radio signals spread over a large virtual bandwidth. This has the advantage that only a small fraction of the virtual bandwidth is actually used and the signals can be very similar to those of mobile phones.”