Volvo Testing Road Magnets to Help Self-Driving Cars Position Themselves [w/Video]

Volvo has completed a research project that uses magnets on the roadway to help autonomous cars determine their position. One of the crucial issues in the development of self-driving cars is reliable and accurate positioning, with Volvo saying magnets are better than GPS and cameras. That’s because the latter have limitations in certain conditions, while road-integrated magnets remain unaffected by physical obstacles and poor weather conditions.

“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,” said Jonas Ekmark, Preventive Safety Leader at Volvo Car Group.

Volvo Cars will participate in a large-scale autonomous driving pilot project in which 100 self-driving Volvo cars will use public roads in everyday driving conditions around the Swedish city of Gothenburg.

“It is fully possible to implement autonomous vehicles without changes to the present infrastructure. However, this technology adds interesting possibilities, such as complementing road markings with magnets,” said Ekmark.

Volvo Cars’ research team created a 100-meter long test track at the company’s testing facilities in Hällered outside Gothenburg, Sweden. A pattern of round ferrite magnets (40×15 mm) was located 200 mm below the road surface and the car was equipped with several magnetic field sensors.

According to Volvo, the magnets could also prevent run-off road accidents, facilitate accuracy of winter road maintenance and allow a more efficient utilisation of road space since accurate positioning could allow lanes to be narrower. However, Volvo doesn’t mention anything about costs, which may prove to be the biggest obstacle for implementing this idea.

By Dan Mihalascu

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