Published: 05 February 2019

Live trial of intelligent localisation technology proves a success

On 23 January the University of Surrey demonstrated one of the UK’s first GPR-based localisation technology applications designed for all-weather conditions, which could bring autonomous vehicles a step closer to reality.

Autonomous vehicle demo

One of the main limitations of current localisation systems for autonomous vehicles is that their operation is limited in harsh environments such as fog, heavy rain and snow. Now a research project led by the Department of Mechanical Engineering Sciences has developed a new method of localisation for driverless cars using Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) technology.

The project is a collaboration between Surrey and specialist surveying company Technics Group, along with Jaguar Land Rover and Ordnance Survey as advisory panel members. It is funded by Innovate UK and began in September 2018.

As the UK’s biggest bus manufacturer, we’re very interested in this area, both from a safety angle and also because drivers represent our operators’ biggest cost.

Stuart Cottrell, Alexander Dennis

Around 20 representatives from key industrial companies in the automotive sector gathered at Surrey Research Park to witness a live demonstration of the technology. Among those attending were Alexander Dennis, WMCA, TfWM, Coventry CC, emapsite, Navtech Radar, Modus, Intelcomm, and Jaguar Land Rover and Ordnance Survey. In addition to seeing a proof of concept demonstration, delegates spent time at the University for a series of presentations by Surrey and Technics and a Q&A session.

The technology demonstrated is based on an intelligent algorithm which uses GPR signals to enable vehicle localisation on a highway network in poor weather conditions. The project team believes that this technique has the potential to be more reliable than GPS, more robust than cameras in adverse conditions, and more commercially viable than LiDAR (laser light-based surveying), enabling future autonomous vehicles to perform in all conditions – which is essential for their widespread adoption.

Dr Saber Fallah, who is leading Surrey’s input on the project said: “This was an exciting opportunity to work closely with a successful company, apply our knowledge in connected autonomous vehicles to real world problems, and to be instrumental in bringing new products to market.”

Graham Mills, Technics’ Founder and Project Director added “It has been a privilege to work on a project of this nature alongside an extremely competent academic organisation and two companies heavily involved in the sector, who are experts in their respective fields. Given the success that we have achieved, Technics are committed to participate in this project as it moves forward into its next stage(s)”  

Stuart Cottrell, of Alexander Dennis, commented: “As the UK’s biggest bus manufacturer, we’re very interested in this area, both from a safety angle and also because drivers represent our operators’ biggest cost. We are already looking to implement autonomous manoeuvres in our depots and also a park and ride route in 2020, so seeing what has been achieved at Surrey was very interesting.”


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