American universities open centre focussing on driverless navigation safety

America’s Department of Transportation has awarded nearly US$2 million (£1.5 million) towards a research consortium investigating and developing solutions to autonomous vehicle safety and security challenges.

The consortium researchers led by Ohio State University working with experts from the University of California, Irvine will establish a new Tier 1 University Transportation Center focussing on the security of positioning, navigation and timing components associated with highly automated systems. They aim to develop technology to combat GPS vulnerabilities such as attacks by hackers or unintentional signal interference, which can cause collisions and increase traffic congestion.

They say autonomous vehicles rely on a continuous flow of information and data from GPS and other sensors. A precise and timely flow of location data is essential for short-range driving control and long-range navigation and planning.

“GPS is at the heart of virtually all vehicular navigation systems. Navigation system failure due to unintentional interference, intentional jamming, or malicious spoofing could have dangerous consequences,” said Samueli School’s Zak Kassas (pictured), an associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering and electrical engineering and computer science, who will serve as principal investigator and center director. “As vehicles approach full autonomy with less humans in the loop, the vehicle navigation system’s accuracy, reliability and trustworthiness become ever more critical. We have assembled a superlative team of navigation and transportation experts to study this problem and offer concrete solutions.” 

The consortium also includes University of Texas at Austin and University of Cincinnati, with research taking place at all four institutions. They say they will assess PNT threat scenarios and risks to highly automated transportation systems, develop mitigation strategies, and systemise standards and guidelines for cyber-resilient PNT systems.

While research and testing will begin with ground-based vehicles, they say extensions could include aviation and marine transport too.


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