Everyone who has driven with a GPS in a big city knows that there are spotty places where the GPS signal reception is difficult because the device loses line of sight, or because buildings are reflecting and bouncing the GPS signal around. The end result is a dramatic loss of accuracy which can mean the missing a critical turn. Scientists from Spain have devised a way to improve the positioning accuracy by a wide margin. “We have managed to improve the determination of a vehicle’s position in critical cases by between 50 and 90%,” said researcher David Martin to BBC.They do it by combining the existing GPS data processing with other sensor input, such as motion sensing, which indicates them the speed and direction of the vehicle at any moment. With the additional sensor data, it is possible to double-check the GPS data, thus preventing your car from bouncing 50m away from the last known position because the GPS signal degraded: the motion data would indicate that it can’t possibly move that fast. Also, if you are entering a straight tunnel, the GPS connection is lost completely, but the navigator could still use the motion data to interpret where your car is going.
In fact, older GPS system were already doing things like this, but not to that extent, and not with as many as three sensors and gyroscope. for short-term signal loss, this should work relatively well, but the system still needs accurate GPS data at some point because all those sensors suffer from error accumulation over time and need a good GPS signal to re-adjust from time to time. The researchers hope that they can make a similar system work on smartphone which already have a gyroscope and a motion sensor. The same technology would also be critical to self-driving cars, since they require greater accuracy to compensate for the lack of human driver awareness.
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