Most of today’s autonomous cars rely heavily on GPS systems and cameras to drive on the road without intervention from a driver. But Volvo claims that GPS systems and cameras have limitations in certain conditions. As a result, the automaker is currently testing road magnets as a safer and more reliable method to guide self-driving cars down the road.
According to Volvo, established positioning technologies such as GPS and cameras have limitations in certain conditions, but road-integrated magnets remain unaffected by physical obstacles and poor weather conditions. The auto manufacturer has announced that it has completed a research project using magnets placed in the roadway to help a self-driving car determine its position on the road.
Volvo teamed up with the Swedish Transport Administration to create a 100-meter long test track at its testing facilities in Hällered outside Gothenburg, Sweden. A pattern of round 40×15 mm ferrite magnets were placed 200 mm below the road surface and the car was equipped with several magnetic field sensors.
The project was designed to evaluate crucial issues, such as detection range, reliability, durability, cost and the impact on road maintenance. “The magnets create an invisible ‘railway’ that literally paves the way for a positioning inaccuracy of less than one decimeter. We have tested the technology at a variety of speeds and the results so far are promising,” says Jonas Ekmark, Preventive Safety Leader at Volvo Car Group.