BACKGROUND OF THE AUTONOMOUS DRIVING
Autonomous driving has become a popular topic in recent years, whether for self-driving passenger cars, cabs, or industrial vehicles. To accomplish the task of autonomous driving, a vehicle needs to have the following information: where it is (positioning), where it is going (planning), how to get there (navigation planning), how to avoid collisions (perception), and how to follow relevant protocols (understanding modeling). Positioning is the primary problem that needs to be solved, and it is acknowledged that integrated GNSS/INS navigation and positioning is an essential technology to address this application. The CGI GNSS/INS (inertial navigation system) sensor tightly integrates high accuracy positioning GNSS module and an industrial-grade inertial motion unit (IMU) that are designed to meet the requirements of the autonomous driving industry.
SELF DRIVING STANDARDS
Autonomous driving technology is divided into 6 levels in the SAE standard, from L0 to L5. There should be no manual intervention during the driving process for L4 and L5 autonomous vehicles. In the field of passenger cars, due to the difficulties of establishing laws and regulations covering the notion of risks and responsibilities, L4 and L5 autonomous driving technology is still far from mass production. However, in several special commercial vehicle applications, such as port and fleet logistics, L4 autonomous driving projects are gradually implemented. Among CHC Navigation's customers, Westwell, to which we shall refer in the next paragraph, has already completed the commercial operation of L4 autonomous driving in a harbor.
Figure 1. Westwell’s autonomous Q-Truck at the Thai port
THE CASE OF STRADDLE TRUCKS
Founded in 2016, Westwell aims at the commercial roll-out of AI chip-based solutions, at the smart port business, and subsequently enters the autonomous driving segment in industrial applications. Westwell is one of the early integrators of the CGI-610 GNSS/INS, the first navigation sensor featuring GNSS and INS tight coupling algorithms developed by CHC Navigation. The cooperation between the two parties started in 2019 and contributed to a process of continuous improvement of CHCNAV GNSS navigation and inertial systems, considering all the operational constraints encountered in a port environment. On September 13, 2019, Westwell announced the release of a driverless electric truck, the Q-Truck. The Q-Truck is designed as a cab-less truck that can be used in multiple scenarios such as ports, logistics parks, and mines. It is equipped with CGI-610, the high-precision integrated GNSS/INS navigation receiver that can achieve centimeter-level positioning accuracy. In 2020, 6 Q-Trucks were put into service in the port in Thailand operating at full capacity, loading and unloading containers.
Figure 2. Q-Truck fleet at the Thai port
ADOPTING HYBRID SOLUTIONS
Compared to the combined GNSS/INS navigation and positioning solution, the use of traditional solutions (magnetic guidance nails or base station guidance program) in Automated Guided Vehicles (AVG) and straddle trucks leads to challenges such as the use of external devices, the high cost of port transformation, relatively low operational efficiency and deployment difficulties.
Similarly, GNSS positioning solutions also have shortcomings in such complex and obstructed environments as ports. The availability of a single RTK GNSS-based positioning is sometimes affected for a period that can be quite long. The accuracy of GNSS/INS positioning then becomes inadequate to ensure the integrity of autonomous navigation systems. The efficient resolution of such constraints requires the additional use of vision and LiDAR technologies to perform multi-sources fusion positioning.
Figure 3. Moving containers from the vessel to the yard with the help of autonomous Q-Trucks
CHCNAV’s CGI-610 GNSS/INS sensor was successfully integrated by Westwell into its driverless Q-Truck. The CGI-610 GNSS/INS sensor is a dual-antenna GNSS receiver, tightly coupled to an inertial module, that provides reliable and accurate navigation and positioning solutions for demanding terrestrial, marine, or aerial applications.
Figure 4.CGI-610 GNSS/INS Sensor integrated into the Q-Trucks
Today, Westwell has achieved commercial operation of automated straddle truck driving in ports. The Q-Truck is designed as a cab-less truck and could be used in multiple scenarios, such as ports, logistics parks, and mines.
The challenge of prolonged GNSS positioning outages in obstructed areas and ensuring the integrity of the truck's position leads to the need to add vision and LiDAR sensors to provide multi-source fusion positioning. CHC Navigation has initiated a research and development program to bring out new high accuracy solutions to fill the gap in GNSS use in seaports.
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