Racing is also played in space

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Data dates from the beginning of June. Geespace, Geely’s space partner – owner of Volvo – has launched its first satellite from China. It plans to launch the first phase of 72 satellites in low orbit by 2025, with the goal of having 240 satellites in the long run.

These satellites will be used in part for the brand’s autonomous vehicles. They will guarantee the order of one centimeter required for driving automation, as well as the accuracy of the connection. Perhaps other brands in the group, including Volvo, will benefit from this contribution from heaven. Gili’s ambition is to offer these services to other customers. Chinese groups call them PPP (Precision Point Positioning) and RTK (Real-Time Kinematic Services), respectively.

Geely thought of automobiles, but not only. Logistics sectors like drones and mapping sectors are also very interested in very precise locations. Gilly even plans to play a role in the Asian Games (equivalent to the Olympic Games on this continent). The Chinese giant plans to take care of its own country and Asia first before it spreads its influence to the rest of the world after 2026.

The Volkswagen Group is also preparing for this

A few months ago, L’Express revealed that Porsche plans to invest two billion euros in a similar satellite.

This is a project that naturally involves the entire Volkswagen Group. It is borne by Porsche SE (Porsche Automobile Holding SE), a Stuttgart-based holding company that holds a majority stake in Volkswagen. These European companies invest in mobility (especially traffic-related solutions) and industrial technology.

As a priority, partners in this space project include Isar Aerospace, a German satellite launcher located near Munich, and in which the holding company invested in 2021. The goal is to overtake Tesla, which could benefit from the contribution of SpaceX and its constellations. Starlink Satellite. It is used to provide high-speed Internet, but it can also make it possible to provide mobility, train, truck and motorhome service (but not a priority, car) service.

However, it should be noted that both Gilly and Starlink make it a point of honor to limit the debris in space.

Satellite: A worldwide network with limited accuracy

For their own location, vehicles – such as smartphones and many other connected objects – receive location data from GPS (Global Positioning System) satellites.

Twenty-four in number, and located at an altitude of 20,000 kilometers, these were originally launched by the U.S. military in 1973 for military purposes. They have been open to the public since 1995 and have contributed greatly to the success of the navigation application. However, the accuracy is only in the order of 10 meters.

Europe decided to launch its own galaxy called Galileo at the end of the last century. To date, 26 satellites have been launched (including 22 satellites) and 30 by 2024. Declared accuracy 4 m on the ground.

It should also be noted that the Russians have launched the Glonus constellation and the Chinese have their Baidu network. In principle, the reception systems operating vehicles are compatible with the signals of all these satellites, the common term is GNSS (Satellite System on Global).

Options

In the absence of more precise signals, there are options.

In 2018, at the CES in Las Vegas, French manufacturers introduced PPP technology (for specific point positioning), which specializes in calculating a position within a few centimeters, using only data from orbits and precise clocks. By data fusion combined with a single receiver. The project was created by Geoflex Company using technology from CNES (National Center for Space Studies). It has joined forces with YoGoKo (Communications Solutions for Mobility), French SME Sysnav (Solutions in Extreme Environment) and Institute for Energy Transition Vedecom.

We don’t hear much about this solution anymore. But, Geoflex still believes in it and talks about hyper geolocation for cars. Its system has recently been honored after being well-received in China and Dubai in response to a challenge organized by Software Republic (an organization created by Renault and its partners). The company, located in Massey-Palaisu, near Paris, promises 4 centimeters of precision.

For its part, Tesla will consider preventing the absence of GPS signals based on images returned by the camera and wheel movement (and in an inert unit) to ensure vehicle direction.

Summary

Porsche and Gili can use their own satellite constellations to facilitate the arrival of autonomous vehicles. However, there are other solutions to improve accuracy.

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