The Challenges of Automotive

While the aviation and automotive projects are similar, as far as the deliverables and what the team will need to achieve, additional challenges come with working in the driverless vehicle space, Auld said. First, the automotive industry’s performance expectations are more stringent than what they experienced in the aviation world. The positioning must be even more accurate and employ carrier phase positioning techniques such as Precise Point Positioning (PPP) and Real-Time Kinematic (RTK). Code-phase positioning solutions are used on the aviation side.

The challenge becomes, Auld said, finding a way to use a carrier-phase solution and layering on the safety element—something that hasn’t been done before in the automotive use case.

“We know how to do PPP and we know how to do RTK and deliver corrections over satellite. All that is done. Now how do you do all that with the expectation that you can deliver on the safety side of it as well,” Auld asked. “There is no existing solution to that problem in the market today. We’re blazing the trail here.”

The team already has ideas, concepts and proposals, but they still have to prove them out to achieve the level of performance the automotive industry mandates, Auld said.

The other challenge is price. NovAtel sells products that typically cost thousands of dollars, but that won’t work in the automotive space. The automotive industry is used to paying significantly less than that which means the team also needs to find ways to keep costs down.

“Our commercial products are very high end, very flexible and very adaptable to different problems,” Auld said. “In this instance we have to design for a specific use case and optimize the cost for that, plus deliver the performance we have in standard products and layer on the safety component.”

Although a challenging task, NovAtel will leverage its experience in the aviation industry and its knowledge of what it takes to design safety-certified products to create positioning solutions for autonomous vehicles in a variety of commercial markets, including agriculture, mining and the automotive space. It will take some time to develop and NovAtel will face many challenges along the way. Eventually our partners and us will provide the GNSS solution that enables driverless cars to travel safely and reliably on our roadways.