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Volpe Innovation Challenge Funds GPS Augment

MorgueFile GPS NL

At Volpe Center’s third Innovation Challenge, five competing teams waited anxiously to take the stage, six Department of Transportation (DOT) executives took their seats as judges, and each team’s weeks of preparation came down to seven minutes to present its innovative solution to a problem facing transportation today.

In the face of tough questions from the judges, each team hoped its solution would win seed funding to complete the early phases of the project it proposed—but only one would be chosen.

The winning team’s project will create a complement to GPS navigation that "crowdsources" a user’s location if traditional GPS fails. Crowdsource positioning will mitigate known GPS vulnerabilities by calculating a user’s position using the time it takes signals broadcast by others, such as aircraft communication links and cell phones, to reach that user.

The concept relies on there being two antennas to establish the angle of arrival of various broadcast signals. Using geometric principles, angle-of-arrival measurements can be used to compute the receiver’s position. Not only can this position be computed independently of GPS, serving as a failsafe for outages, it may also yield a more accurate position when combined with the GPS position estimate.

This crowdsourced position approach has the potential to offer better navigation service and to benefit navigation service providers such as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) by reducing the need for dedicated alternative navigation systems.

“Our team enjoyed the opportunity to be creative and put together a cross-disciplinary team of Volpe staff," said Andrew Hansen, a member of the winning team. "We were fortunate to be able to convey a novel idea to our transportation partners through our presentation to the judges. The competition among the teams was a strong motivator, and it was impressive to see the variety of ideas.”

Other proposals included developing methods to make auditory cues less confusing for pilots in the cockpit; examining tools that encourage motorcycling and biking while also making cyclists safer; searching for nontraditional data sources that could improve transportation planning; and creating software that plans the "greenest" trip possible.

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