How next-gen IMU-based sensor navigation will enable adoption of autonomous vehicles

Author : James Fennelly | Product Manager for Inertial Measurement Systems | ACEINNA

01 January 2021

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The future of autonomous systems relies upon several strategic sensing technology advances that will enable higher rates of autonomy. As James Fennelly, Product Manager for Inertial Measurement Systems at MEMS-based sensing technology expert, ACEINNA explains here, the most significant advancement required is in the real time, constant & accurate positioning of the vehicle throughout any environmental changes.

The full version of this article was originally featured in the January 2021 issue of EPDT magazine [read the digital issue]. Sign up to receive your own copy each month.

Ubiquitous and safe autonomous vehicles, drones and robotic systems alike must be able to achieve constant, consistent and accurate sensing of their position in all weather, temperatures and landscape environments – and dead reckoning will be required for potentially longer periods of time than originally thought.

One of the most critical sensors in positioning systems is the inertial measurement unit (IMU), which strives to understand the fundamental physics of motion. This fundamental understanding of how a vehicle is moving in time and space is useful for many applications, and IMUs therefore continue to be one of the most cost effective and accurate sensors fused to the vision and other detection and ranging systems.

The reason IMUs are important is simplified here for clarity. Imagine a line drawn down the middle of this page, which would constitute the perfect path an autonomous vehicle needs to travel in a tunnel. Let’s say it takes 30 minutes from one end to reach the other end of this perfectly straight tunnel. If the dead reckoning solution of the vehicle has a bias instability of 3 degrees per hour, by the end of the tunnel, the vehicle heading will be 1.5 degrees away from the line. Travelling at 20 km/hour, the vehicle will be going to the left or right 15 cm every second, likely resulting in the vehicle hitting another vehicle, a wall or both.

Currently, the performance of many IMUs in the market is still not accurate enough, and requires a significant step function improvement in sensor performance, specifically when the vehicle is operating under a dead reckoning situation, for seconds, or potentially minutes at a time.

Read the full article in EPDT's January 2021 issue...

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