March 10 - Spanish researchers are developing a low cost Global Positioning System (GPS), designed to overcome the so-called ''canyon effect'' of inner-city driving. Tall buildings often render a GPS useless in the city, but the researchers say their system offers a 90% improvement over any competing technology currently available to consumers. Elly Park reports.
Navigating around an unfamiliar city with the help of a GPS is not always reliable because of the so-called 'canyon effect' created by tall buildings, but researchers at Madrid's Carlos III University, say it's about to get 90% better. Here a joint team of more than 30 scientists have been working on a system that combines the satellite signal of the GPS with an inertial measurement device that registers acceleration and turns of a moving vehicle. The result is a software that corrects errors from either of the signals to create a reliable inner-city navigation system. Lead designer Enrique Marti says it's far better than a GPS alone where, in big cities, the signal is easily lost.. (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) ENRIQUE MARTI, APPLIED ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE GROUP ESEARCHER AT CARLOS III UNIVERSITY, SAYING: "The problem comes in complex urban environments where we have walls on both sides where the GPS gets lost and it gives us measurements that are less accurate and sometimes it even says that it has good accuracy when it isn't the case. Our system is able to detect those situations and, using the information from the inertial sensor, it is able to predict what we see in this blue line which is a trajectory that is much more accurate than the GPS signal alone." The team thinks that this system will even contribute to the development of self-driving cars in the future. But in the meantime, they are looking to develop a user friendly GPS smartphone application that will compliment the measuring device. Lead designer David Martin says they're aiming to make the system available to everyday commuter. (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) DAVID MARTIN, APPLIED ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE GROUP ESEARCHER AT CARLOS III UNIVERSITY, SAYING: "In smartphones we can have the same sensors we have used in our research directly for our application. In smartphones we can have accelerometers and low cost GPS." . Using off-the-shelf products, the researchers say their device could initially cost around 3,000 euros, With a prototype in hand, they are now looking for an investor who will make the product commercially available world-wide.