Galileo to make car traffic of the future safer

Galileo to make car traffic of the future safer

Europe’s satellite navigation system Galileo should make traffic safer in the future. In contrast to GPS and other systems, an authentication service is provided for Galileo to prevent the transmission of manipulated or falsified position data.

"Satellite signals are not encrypted, so it is possible to send fake signals to a receiver," Galileo chief Carlo des Dorides told the German Press Agency in Munich. "With authenticated signals, this risk can be reduced." Galileo is the only navigation system that offers this function, he said.

"If the position data received by autonomous vehicles were not correct, it would drastically undermine the concept of automated cars," said the director of the Prague-based satellite navigation authority GSA. Authentication means that, in addition to position signals, the satellites send data signatures that receiver devices can identify as genuine using a key.

If the signatures are missing, the receivers recognize that the position signals are forged or manipulated. The service is scheduled to be in regular operation in 2020. "We are hearing from car manufacturers that they are interested in authentication," the Portuguese authority chief said.

Although the construction of Galileo is not yet complete, the system has been in operation since 2017. One of the most important locations on the ground is the Munich suburb of Oberpfaffenhofen, where one of the two Galileo control centers is based. "We are building a space-based highway that will benefit the European economy," said des Dorides. "We currently have 22 satellites in operation. We are almost there."

In addition to Galileo, there are three other global satellite navigation systems that go by the acronym GNSS in the industry: GPS, Russia’s Glonass and China’s Beidou system. It is important for Europe to have a system under its own control, des Dorides said.

GPS and Russia’s Glonass – both systems under military control – had a twenty-year head start, des Dorides said. "Now we are there with excellent performance and 700 million users."This refers to the fact that, according to GSA figures, Galileo receiver chips are now installed in 700 million electronic devices, most of them cell phones. "Galileo can currently determine their position with an accuracy of between one meter and one meter twenty," the GSA chief said. "We can say with certainty that we are behind no one."

The market for satellite navigation continues to grow very rapidly, said des Dorides. Transportation is one of the main application areas, and the GSA chief cited two examples: "Satellite navigation can be used for road toll systems, this eliminates the need for both toll booths on the road and on-board devices in cars."And in rail traffic, Galileo "could be used for signaling and replace the balises on the tracks," said des Dorides – balises are the transponders mounted on the trackbed that transmit signal position and other railway-related information to the trains.

But Galileo should not be in competition with other systems. "The most important technical development in the past two or three years is that the current devices are multi-constellation receivers," said des Dorides. "This means that these devices can process the signals of several GNSS systems. The question of whether Galileo will become the third, fourth or fifth GNSS system is no longer an issue."

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