Road test for Europe’s new satellite navigation system

A Fiat car is putting a European satellite navigation system through its paces in Italy this week. EGNOS, which is being developed by collaboration led by the European Space Agency, will be monitoring the car’s position on a map with accuracy estimated as close as one metre.

The demonstration will take place at the 7th World Congress on Intelligent Transport Systems which is being held on 6-8 November Turin.

‘This is the first time EGNOS has been integrated into a car. EGNOS has the potential to bring aviation standards of safety into everybody’s car,’ said Giorgio Solari, who is co-ordinating the technical aspects of the demo for ESA.

EGNOS – European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service – is being developed by ESA in conjunction with the European Commission and Eurocontrol.

It is said to improve the accuracy and reliability of navigation signals from US GPS and Russian GLONASS global satellite navigation systems to the point where they can be used for safety critical applications, such as flying aircraft and navigating ships through narrow channels. It is due to become operational in 2003.

‘During this year, EGNOS has been tested at several airports across Europe. National Air Traffic Services, which are constantly on the lookout for ways to make aircraft navigation safer and more cost-effective, have tried running EGNOS in conjunction with current guidance systems – with encouraging results’, said Claudio Mastracci, Director of Applications Programmes at ESA. ‘This week we will be demonstrating how EGNOS can bring best navigation practice to the motorist.’

EGNOS receives signals from the GPS and GLONASS satellites and, using specialised hardware, adds a correction factor which makes them accurate to five metres or better. The signals are then beamed back into space, and broadcast by three civilian geostationary satellites. EGNOS-receiving equipment, fitted into vehicles, picks up this precise tracking information.

For the Turin trial, an EGNOS receiver has been integrated with a digital map and fitted into the car. EGNOS shows not only greater accuracy but also greater consistency and reliability than GPS alone. It alerts users in the case of malfunction of the GPS or GLONASS satellite constellations.

EGNOS is a first step towards Galileo, a fully comprehensive European global satellite navigation system. Consisting of about 30 satellites, Galileo will be under civilian control and will, it is hoped, provide a reliable, accurate and guaranteed satellite navigation service from 2006/8 onwards.

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