Cranfield University and Spirent to develop positioning technology for autonomous vehicles


One of the world leaders in Galileo, GPS and other global navigation satellite system (GNSS) testing solutions, Spirent Communications, has formed a partnership with Cranfield University to develop connected autonomous vehicle (CAV) technologies.

The aim of the Cranfield-Spirent partnership’s research project is to improve positioning and timing technologies to enable better performance of unmanned vehicles, such as autonomous aircraft or connected cars.

Cranfield is an exclusively postgraduate university that is a global leader for education and transformational research in technology and management. The university’s experienced researchers will now be working with Spirent engineers to develop new methods for synchronization and location testing, using Spirent’s advanced test systems and equipment.

Spirent is supporting a number of Individual Research Projects (IRP) in Cranfield’s Autonomous Vehicle Dynamics and Control (AVDC) MSc program as an industry partner. The projects already identified are: ‘GPS-Based Clock Synchronization for an Airborne Distributed Sensor Network’, and ‘In-car mapping and receiver integration testing for autonomous vehicles’.

The collaborative research will be aided by Cranfield’s new High Performance Computer (HPC) that was switched on last month. The new Delta supercomputer is three times more powerful than its predecessor, has double the amount of storage and uses only two-thirds the energy of the previous system. It also has remote visualization to provide the opportunity to view research findings from remote locations without the need to relocate data.

Delta is planned as a dedicated resource for research teams to investigate engineering, scientific, data analytic and machine learning applications, and will be used for predictive modeling and simulation tasks. Supporting 250-300 users, it will reduce the time taken to perform complex research by carrying out calculations across many processors simultaneously.

“Creating new ways to verify that autonomous vehicles are in exactly the right place is critical to the development of CAVs,” said Professor Rafal Zbikowski, head of control engineering at Cranfield University. “Spirent has been verifying GPS/GNSS receivers for 30 years, so has a lot of knowledge that will be very useful to our researchers.”

Mark Holbrow, head of engineering at Spirent’s positioning business unit, commented, “Location awareness for autonomous vehicles is of major importance, and is one of the most challenging applications in commercial GNSS development. We will be working with Cranfield to create new test and development tools that will provide the opportunity for improved system performance, accuracy and resilience.”

Share this story:

About Author


Tom has edited Traffic Technology International (TTi) magazine and its Traffic Technology Today website since May 2014. During his time at the title, he has interviewed some of the top transportation chiefs at public agencies around the world as well as CEOs of leading multinationals and ground-breaking start-ups. Tom's earlier career saw him working on some the UK's leading consumer magazine titles. He has a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).