WNCG, Samsung Team Up for CAMPS Research

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

WNCG Prof. Todd Humphreys and his group of researchers in the Radionavigation Laboratory made headlines in recent months with their major breakthroughs in centimeter-accurate positioning. A few of the students have already created a startup spin-off to push these breakthroughs in precise positioning to the mass market.

Now, WNCG Industrial Affiliate Samsung Research America is teaming up with the UT researchers to further push the boundaries of this technology by providing a $76,000 gift. The gift will support Automotive Centimeter-Accurate Mobile Positioning System research (CAMPS).

“Mobile devices and automobiles with reliable low-cost centimeter-accurate positioning systems could usher in a host of new, useful and fun applications to the mass market,” Prof. Humphreys mentions.

These applications would include geo-referenced augmented and virtual reality, lower cost vehicles, surveying, and 3D map-making. The technology promises to enable precise vehicle positioning in a platform that is 10 to 100 times less expensive than current platforms for precise automotive tracking. For example, the new technology could replace $500 GPS antennas in cars with $10 versions, Prof. Humphreys states.

The primary goal of the collaboration is to investigate and overcome obstacles to performing centimeter-accurate GPS positioning on mobile devices, including smart phones, handheld devices, virtual reality gear, or on a similar system embedded in a vehicle. The project will explore this goal by reducing positioning time, using Austin as a testbed for new technologies and finding the next level of GPS accuracy.

Reduce Positioning Time

The current time it takes to determine a precise location down to centimeter-accuracy on a handheld device is much longer than the average consumer is willing to wait. Through this ongoing collaboration with Samsung, the UT team hopes to reduce the time it takes for location to reliably be determined on the type of low-quality antenna required by mobile devices to below 30 seconds.

“Drivers and smartphone users are busy people. They won’t want to wait more than 30 seconds for their precise positioning solution to initialize,” Prof. Humphreys states. “We’re looking at what it will take to get us below this 30 second benchmark.”

Reducing this time would make the technology more convenient for the user and more marketable for cell phone and automobile manufacturers.

Austin as Testbed

Austin is widely known as the “Silicon Hills,” as increasing numbers of technology companies flock here annually. Its highly educated population, with an eye towards technology, future innovation, startup potential and ties to UT Austin, make it the perfect place to test out new ideas on a large scale. The UT researchers will set up a network of reference receivers in Austin that will offer corrections to local mobile devices and vehicles, enabling their location to centimeter accuracy. The project will demonstrate how this technology, including a reference network that is dense enough to support it, can be set up and maintained in an economic way.

From the Lab to the Streets

The third goal of CAMPS is to demonstrate centimeter-accurate positioning of cars in Austin in a week-long trial run of the technology.

Precise positioning is crucial to the future world researchers envision, where cars drive themselves through constantly flowing intersections without stop signs or street lines. To enable this, vehicles will need to know exactly where they are in the lane, where they are in relation to other cars, bikers and pedestrians, at what precise time they will enter an intersection and the precise route they will take through it, among other bits of information.

“Sub-decimeter accuracy will enable cars to build and share digital maps and to easily navigate within these maps. These maps will be a key ingredient of the support infrastructure for autonomous cars,” Prof. Humphreys states.

Many challenges remain on the path toward low-cost high-accuracy location, however. These challenges include reducing the loss of positioning caused by momentary signal blockage, maintaining accurate vehicle positioning during the complete blockage of satellite signals, and quick recalculation of location after one or more signals are blocked.

“We’ll have our hands full on this project,” Prof. Humphreys mentions.