3D capture to reap precision benefits

By on 13 June, 2018

A fleet of capture vehicles will soon be mapping Australian cities in three dimensions with greatly improved precision as part of an industry trial of SBAS and PPP technologies.

The trial will facilitate HERE Technologies’ capture cars leveraging the improved precision offered by the Australian SBAS (Satellite-Based Augmentation System) signals being transmitted under the SBAS trial run by Geoscience Australia, LINZ (Land Information New Zealand) and the CRCSI (CRC for Spatial Information).

The trial will assess the benefits of the increased precision and accuracy on the company’s 3D map building workflow, with over 1000 kilometres of test site slated for capture, covering ‘urban canyon’ areas which pose challenges for GPS, as well as sites known to have no issues in receiving GPS signals, including rural and suburban areas.

“The trial will assess how traditional positioning and the associated post-processing activities, particularly in the preparation of 3D Maps and the inclusion of high resolution geometry and feature recognition, can be streamlined to improve the delivery and reliability of a time-sensitive map,” said HERE spatial industries specialist Ross Caldow.

“HERE engineers will analyse the SBAS results alongside the existing positioning technologies, and extended ground control, to assess accuracy and viability of the technology. Ultimately, the technology will be assessed on whether it can meet or improve existing processes and results in the map production workflow.”

HERE operates eight capture vehicles in Australia, and one in New Zealand. Image provided by HERE.

HERE’s capture vehicles each feature a sensor array to capture street level imagery with four 360-degree high resolution cameras, and 3D point cloud data with high precision LiDAR capable of 700,000 points per second. Under the trial, the new SBAS technology mounted on board these vehicles ensure the position signals it produces are time-synchronised with their existing positioning technology.

The firm provides a range of mapping service that this output contributes to, with applications including adjusting road centrelines, capturing new roads based on changes to road infrastructure, capturing the as-built environment in 3D, capturing road widths; slope; height; curvature; yaw/pitch/roll, and bridge heights in 3D.

A core products the vehicles’ output contributes to is HERE’s high definition live map, a continuously update cloud-based data product to support the operation of autonomous vehicles, being utilised within Highly Autonomous Driving (HAD) computers for self-driving cars.

Despite a current wave of public backlash and increased scrutiny following fatal incidents involving Uber’s self-driving vehicle program and another involving a Tesla Model X in its semi-autonomous ‘Autopilot’ mode, the technologies and techniques that enable autonomous transport are rapidly maturing, and Australian trials — which are not on public roads — are proceeding without incident.

“Until this trial, SBAS for absolute or highly-accurate positioning was not available in Australia and New Zealand,” Caldow said. “On a technical level, this has meant companies like HERE need to collect and then process location data using complex GPS correction methods. With this manual process alleviated, we expect more rapid access to technologies capable of reducing congestion and making our roads safer.”

“The increased accuracy and coverage that SBAS provides will enable future self-driving cars to not only navigate more reliably, but to ensure that motorists drive in the safe and most efficient sections of the roadway, and allow enhanced vehicle operations through advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) well before autonomous driving goes mainstream,” he said. “In an autonomous world, where a car relies on location information to navigate, close enough isn’t good enough.”

The broader industry testbed of SBAS services will run until October 2019, with trials covering a range of industry sectors. The federal government has committed to a coordinated national positioning system that incorporates SBAS technologies and will cover Australia’s landmass and maritime zone following the conclusion of the trial.

Capture rig on a HERE vehicle for capturing street level imagery and 3D point clouds. Image provided by HERE.

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