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Even though GPS revolutionized the way we travel, 95 percent of the time it’s only accurate within 10 to 50 feet - an inaccuracy that can sometimes prove to be a problem. But researchers have now found a way to make GPS technology accurate down to an inch, thanks to a new set of algorithms.
The global positioning system, or GPS, is a network of around 30 satellites orbiting the earth which were originally developed by the US Government for military purposes. There are at least four satellites ‘visible’ at any one time and each one sends information about its location and time at regular intervals. By measuring the time it takes to receive these signals, a GPS receiver can pinpoint a user’s position.
A team of researchers from the University of California, Riverside, has developed a way to improve GPS accuracy by augmenting the satellite data with on-board inertial measurement from a sensor, reports Gizmodo.
An Inertial Measurement Unit (IMUs) is a device that measures linear and angular motion usually with a triad of gyroscopes and triad of accelerometers, according to Xsens. The technique has been used before, but in the past it’s required large, expensive computers to process the data, making it impractical for use in vehicles and mobile devices.
The research team has got around this problem by creating a new set of algorithms which, it claims, massively reduces the complexity of the required calculations.
High precision GPS positioning will have many applications, and is especially important for areas such as autonomous vehicles and aviation.
"Achieving this level of accuracy with computational loads that are suitable for real-time applications on low-power processors will not only advance the capabilities of highly specialized navigation systems, like those used in driverless cars and precision agriculture, but it will also improve location services accessed through mobile phones and other personal devices, without increasing their cost," said Jay Farrell, professor UCR's Bourns College of Engineering.
A recent technique, called Differential GPS (DGPS), improves the GPS system by referencing a network of ground-based stations – increasing accuracy to within 3 feet. But this still isn’t precise enough for many modern technologies.
“To fulfill both the automation and safety needs of driverless cars, some applications need to know not only which lane a car is in, but also where it is in that lane--and need to know it continuously at high rates and high bandwidth for the duration of the trip,” said Farrell.