Inside Unmanned Systems provides actionable business intelligence to decision-makers and influencers operating within the global UAS community. Features include analysis of key technologies, policy/regulatory developments and new product design.
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T LS NovAtel's THOUGHT LEADERSHIP SERIES 24 unmanned systems inside June/July 2016 O ne day soon, driverless cars will travel down our road- ways. A nd when they do, there can be no question about where they are in the lane or how far they are from other cars. Centimeter accuracy will be a must, and NovAtel wants to be the company that provides it—and to do so while also meeting safety standards. NovAtel has extensive experience developing safety critical systems for the aviation industry, and is now le- veraging that experience to create safe Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) positioning technology for driverless cars, as well as autonomous applications in agriculture, mining and other commercial markets, said Jonathan Auld, NovAtel's Director, Safety Critical Systems. They formed a specialized Safety Critical Systems BEYOND PRECISION Photos courtesy of NovAtel NovAtel formed a specialized Safety Critical Systems Group to take on the challenge of not only creating precise positioning for driverless cars and other autonomous vehicles, but also meeting stringent industry safety standards. Group in 2015 and moved to a build- ing two blocks away so they could truly focus on creating this technology. The group continues to grow, accord- ing to Auld, and is tackling the chal- lenges that come with not only develop- ing a GNSS technology with that type of precision, but one that also meets the stringent automotive safety standards. "This is not a trivial problem to solve. You can't wave a wand over a product to make it safe as the safety standards define," Auld said. "You can't take a product to the lab, do a test and declare it safe. There are design considerations and engineer process considerations you have to take into account." Why Now NovAtel is known for its high preci- sion products that deliver centimeter and decimeter level performance, depending on the application, Auld said. Because of the company's suc- cess in this area, they started feeling pressure from the different markets they serve. Many clients in industries such as agriculture and mining plan to move to autonomous vehicles in the future, and want NovAtel to de- velop a solution that's not only precise, but that also meets safety standards. NovAtel's certified GNSS receivers have delivered this to the aviation industry for years through the FAA's GPS Wide Area Augmentation Sys- tem (WAAS) and other global Space Based Augmentation Systems (SBAS). Car manufacturers, many of which used NovAtel as their reference sys- tem and were impressed with the performance, also began approaching the company. They wanted to know if NovAtel could achieve centimeter accuracy in driverless cars, while still meeting industry safety standards, necessary production volume and the required price point. "People are happy with the accu- racy we're delivering," Auld said. "It seemed the time was right to go to the next level and work toward a solution that also met the strict safety criteria as well." Why NovAtel When it comes to accurate and pre- cise GNSS, NovAtel already has the answer—which is why clients started coming to them to develop this kind of solution in the first place, Auld said. The antenna technology, the GNSS receiver technology, the algo- rithms, all of that is already in place. And not only do NovAtel engineers have experience delivering a safety Safety critical levels of protection.