GPS and BeiDou navigation systems are drawing closer together

Global Business

GPS and BeiDou navigation systems are drawing closer together

In China, the BDS navigational system helps millions of people do everything from ordering a taxi to tracking a delivery. In the U.S., GPS has simply become a way of life.
Now, the U.S. and China have negotiated compatible signal characteristics that could eventually lead to better service for users of both systems.

CGTN’s Mark Niu reports.

“By agreeing to work together on a consistent standard, it should make the process of developing future chips and other things that use GPS easier. Remember that GPS is used in smartphones, it’s going to be used for autonomous driving, it’s going to be used for a lot of applications in the future,” said Bob O’Donnell, TECHnalysis Research Chief Analyst.

That future is now at the startup Civil Maps, which creates “cognition for cars”; the ability for self-driving cars to develop a mental map of the world.

“If both constellations are interoperable going forward, we can essentially achieve better accuracy for all the better geo spatial needs,” said Sravan Puttagunta, Civil Maps CEO & Co-Founder.

Civil Maps is working with major car manufacturers like Ford. But It also has Chinese investors, which means BeiDou and GPS getting on the same page could give a boost to self-driving cars in China.

“China is really interesting; being to be one of the largest markets for autonomous vehicles there is certainly a lot of demand. So standardization, collaboration across different government bodies are very important milestones for the industry to achieve,” said Puttagunta.

“BeiDou has made quite some progress in recent years. The precision and some features are really good. I think this kind of cooperation will help the localization part for self-driving cars. Self-driving system is very complicated engineering task. It’s better to cooperate and leverage different industries, different companies, to leverage their best technologies to get this technology available, publically available sooner so people can benefit from this technology,” said James Wu, DeepMap Co-Founder & CEO

James Wu’s startup DeepMap has so far raised $32 million off the promise of building high definition 3D maps for self-driving cars.

Chief Operating Officer Wei Luo shows how their technology combines GPS, inertial measurement unit sensors, HD Cameras, and light detection and ranging sensors to help a self-driving car create a memory of its surroundings.

“The map tells the car what the road should look like if there is no other moving object around it. You will see some green lines. This is where we use our machine learning capability to derive traffic rules to help cars cross intersections,” Luo said.

GPS currently plays just a minor role in self-driving cars. But industry experts agree that a growing exchange of information and partnerships between the two biggest markets in the world is a positive sign. They also hope it will lead to increased cooperation in other areas of technology to enhance innovation worldwide.