Researchers at the University of Michigan have developed a small and precise gyroscope for navigating and tracking autonomous vehicles and drones without the use of GPS.
According to the research paper, the team has developed a new type of gyroscope called a precision cell integrating (PSI) gyroscope. They claim that it is “10,000 times more accurate but… 10 times more expensive than gyroscopes used in your typical cell phone”.
It is also said to offer the same or better performance as larger gyroscopes at a fraction of the cost, theoretically meaning that highly precise location tracking and long-term autonomy may be achievable for not just autonomous vehicles but consumer-grade electronics.
The focus of the research is very much on autonomous vehicles though, with the team explaining that their PSI gyroscope is needed for unmanned autonomous vehicles that could go astray without a GPS signal. Should a GPS system fail, autonomous vehicles use a high-performance gyroscope in their backup navigation systems, but these are larger and very expensive.
Accurate AV Tracking Without GPS
Together, all the birdbath resonator’s characteristics translate to what the researchers describe as 10,000 times better efficiency in contrast to a smartphone gyroscope. This means that it easily sensitive enough for use in an autonomous vehicle for accurate self-tracking without GPS.
As an example, an autonomous vehicle traveling at 50 m/h without GPS down a relatively flat road while equipped with a PSI gyro will exhibit just two millimeters of error. After five minutes, this will increase to only 30 centimeters. In contrast, a standard automotive gyroscope will exhibit a positional error of roughly seven meters after one minute and roughly 850 after five minutes.
This performance, the research team says, is comparable to those found on military-grade submarines despite being substantially cheaper.
Plans for commercial production of the PSI gyro are already in full swing, with the team behind it already having formed a start-up, Enertia Microsystems, to commercialize both the PSI gyro and a similar design called the Birdbath Resonating Gyro (BRG). The start-up will target autonomous vehicles, robotics, and consumer electronics.