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Extremely Precise Bosch Sensor Will Help Self-Driving Cars Navigate Roads More Accurately

It's all about the data, really.

Self-driving cars require an array of sensors to figure out things human drivers take for granted, like knowing the exact position of a vehicle on the road. Bosch claims to have developed a sensor that will allow autonomous cars to keep track of exactly where they are, right down to the centimeter. The new sensor will be unveiled to the public at the 2019 Detroit Auto Show in January.

Bosch’s sensor relies on data from the global navigation satellite system (GNSS), which is continuously beamed to the car through a built-in receiver. But Bosch acknowledges that this data won’t always be accurate enough. Atmospheric interface could garble signals, the company noted in a press release, and it’s not always possible to get a precise fix on a vehicle’s position from orbiting satellites.

To address any inaccuracies, Bosch will rely on what it calls “correction data” from various third parties. In 2017, it established a joint venture called Sapcorda with this purpose in mind. The data providers rely on terrestrial reference points with known locations, according to Bosch, which is compared against the satellite data. Any corrections are sent to cars via the cloud or geostationary satellites. Bosch noted that its positioning sensor is also designed to work with onboard sensors measuring things like wheel speed, steering angle, and vehicle inertia.

Bosch-developed software processes data from the various sources. The software can also estimate the vehicle’s position if the satellite connection is temporarily lost, according to Bosch, such as when driving through a tunnel. For longer interruptions, cars can use Bosch’s own digital-map service to orient themselves. Bosch provides maps that include road features like signs and guardrails. Cars can use radar to detect these features, and compare them against the maps to orient themselves, Bosch said. Bosch believes data services like these will be crucial to the success of self-driving cars.

“Services are at least as important for automated driving as the hardware and software,” Bosch board member Dirk Hoheisel said in a statement. Self-driving cars will need lots of location data to navigate the chaos that is the real world, meaning the companies providing that data will be able to make a pretty penny.