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Geospatial for automation – Geospatial World

Lee Baldwin, Segment Director, Autonomy and Positioning Division, Hexagon AB

Due to COVID-19, a lot of things changed in 2020. But the interest in autonomous mobility continued throughout the year. In the coming years, business in autonomy will continue to rise and meet the market interest. New business models are likely to come up. For instance, the ride-sharing companies that have already taken a foothold are only the beginning. With the advent of autonomous cars, we will see more people, especially in urban environments, take advantage of vehicle sharing; individual automobile ownership will decline. This will impact vehicle OEMS (Original Equipment Manufacturers), insurance carriers, car rental companies, and many more.

Geospatial data has been key to the growth of society since its early beginnings as cartography and map making. Today, cartography has evolved to use geospatial data in building high-definition 3D maps, which are vital to autonomous applications as they provide another sensor to a system’s robust positioning engine.

Ensuring safety

To achieve autonomy through ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistance Systems), safety must be our priority. We can achieve high degrees of safety through enhanced accuracy in our positioning engines. This process requires ‘sensor fusion’, where GNSS positioning is blended with navigational and positioning measurements from other sensors like inertial units or DMS (Driver Monitoring System). Today, Hexagon|NovAtel provides a whole ecosystem of technology sensors and software to facilitate sensor fusion and the enhanced positioning accuracy required in autonomous applications. We supply more than 500 R&D autonomous vehicle ecosystems with our sensor fusion technologies.

Keeping up with tech advances

Technology advances faster than governments can provide legal regulations, which is a challenge especially for autonomous applications. The current auto-pilot solutions can be demonstrably safe yet increase your auto insurance due to lack of governmental regulations. Issues like these can inhibit the adoption and growth of autonomous mobility. Regulations and legal aspects of autonomy must be discussed, reviewed and implemented quickly to keep up with the speed of technological advances. The US Federal Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration is an example of how one-way governmental institutions can support autonomous mobility. Their CARMA program encourages research on cooperative driving automation open source software, which paves the way for innovation in automation and transportation methods.

Off-road autonomous application prospects

Off-road autonomous applications will likely see faster adoption due to a more controlled environment (as opposed to open highways) and specific use cases. For example, in mining operations, there are already fully autonomous haulage systems, and wider adoption of autonomy would see these systems extended to agriculture and construction. The addition of collision avoidance systems like ADAS only improves safety of operations, making wide adoption in off-road applications already using autonomous technologies much more likely.

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