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Technology and Intelligent Mobility for Transport Systems

Lydbrook, Gloucestershire, UK 30 July 2014, Prof Charles Curry of Managing Director and Founder of Chronos Technology recently took part in a live debate chaired by Quentin Cooper discussing technology and intelligent mobility.

Mobility used to be equated with freedom - going where you wanted, when you wanted.  Increasingly though, it is linked instead with frustration - being grid-locked or having to endure waits, delays, security-checks and other hazards in order to get from A to B. The essence of the debate was whether intelligent mobility can alleviate the frustration and get us back on the right track.  We have the technology and the vision - automated vehicles, integrated traffic systems, smart infrastructure – but do we have the will and the wherewithal to bring it about and transform how we travel?

Prof Curry talked about GPS (and Galileo in the future) potentially being a big enabler for intelligent transport.  These Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) must be used with caution, however.  We have become reliant on GPS (SatNav) and a system which cost over £50k in the mid-1980s which was an emerging tool used (for example) to position oil rigs, is now in everybody’s smart phone.  They will be in all the new smart vehicles (for example the recently announced autonomous vehicles).  Planes are looking to use GNSS assisted landing systems in the future; very expensive, equally vulnerable.

Efficient vehicle movements and freight logistics improves the ability to get containers from the ports to the distribution centres.  Knowledge of the whereabouts of the vehicles and trusted alternative routes requires GNSS systems that report location back to the control room.

Yet GNSS signals can be stopped in their tracks with a $30 Chinese jammer sold for personal privacy and criminal applications.  Whilst illegal to use, from research Chronos has been doing, there is evidence of hundreds if not thousands of these jamming devices in use on British roads every day.  They not only stop the SatNav from working, they also stop the mobile phone from transmitting your location back to a control room.

Prof Curry questioned whether designers of new intelligent transport systems are considering the risks of relying on a technology which is now vulnerable to a simple readily available jammer.  What technologies are there either to complement GNSS or mitigate the problem?  Is enough research being conducted into this emerging threat area?  Are the organisations and people looking to harness intelligent mobility even aware of this threat?

Chronos is currently working with the Transport Systems Catapult (funded by the Technology Strategy Board) and researching the effectiveness of a little known technology called eLoran which does the same as GPS but is based on terrestrial signals, as opposed to satellite based signals, and is much more resilient to jamming and completely resilient to GPS or Galileo jamming.  Our research into eLoran over the last few years has been supported by Government grant assistance via the Technology Strategy Board (TSB).

Charles added that Chronos’ TSB assisted research has enabled us to be recognised as a global leader in GPS interference detection, monitoring and mitigation systems.  Indeed, Prof Curry recently delivered an up-date briefing to various UK and US Government departments.

Watch the Tech xChange event highlights on YouTube»