Armageddon Could Happen With GPS Outage, Expert Says
China, Russia GPS Interference Already Happening...
In a Jan. 23 The New York Times article, “America Has a GPS Problem,” author Kate Murphy says the system needs a reliable backup. She contends that the GPS signals “are incredibly weak” because of the time and distance to reach receivers through space.
As a result, the signals are vulnerable to jamming and spoofing by even the most inexpensive devices. In addition, the article says the satellites themselves could be destroyed by space junk and other problems.
“By passing the Armageddon scenario, not hard to imagine terrorists, or just joyriding hackers, putting powerful jammers on mobile platforms and having them cycle on an off shutting down a major metro area.” Dana Goward
The article outlines thousands of GPS interference cases that have been linked to China and Russia, including incidents in marine shipping and airport operations.
According to the article, the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act, has included funding for federal agencies to conduct demonstrations, which were held last year.
Bad Things Would Happen if GPS Went Down…
While the article sent a grave notice to readers about GPS’ jamming, more dire consequences could occur in the event of a severe outage, said Dana Goward, president of the Resilient Navigation and Timing Foundation.
“As soon as GPS goes out, transportation takes an immediate and severe hit, as do first responders. Soon digital broadcasts and land mobile radio systems start to fail,” he said. “Within 14 hours, the impacts to the wireless network--and what doesn't go by wireless these days--are noticeable. By 24 hours, a third of the cell towers are no longer talking to each other.”
Photo: GPS III satellite (Lockheed Martin).
Goward said he has seen papers that speculate there would be civil unrest, within days of a major GPS outage, because people would not have access to money, reliably talk to communicate and other issues. “This could happen as the result of a coronal mass ejection, cyber attack, system mistake/error, or an electronic warfare attack by an adversary, which could be difficult to attribute,” he said. “By passing the Armageddon scenario, not hard to imagine terrorists, or just joyriding hackers, putting powerful jammers on mobile platforms and having them cycle on an off shutting down a major metro area.”
The government doesn’t have the equipment to find GPS jammers that are stationary, much less mobile ones, Goward said. “Imagine all the difficulty the autonomous and intelligent transportation folks are going to have to go through when it becomes really clear, because of a major accident, that GPS is not sufficient for safety of life use,” he said. “We will still need the cameras, wheel counters, etc, but the tech will be so much easier and better if it has a solid basis for both time and location.”
Goward, who was quoted in the Times article, is a proponent of eLoran technology as a GPS backup system. Goward, in the article, said that both China, Russia, Iran, South Korea and Saudi Arabia have eLoran systems as a GNSS backup.
CES Offers ‘Challenging’ Virtual Trade Show
Due to the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, the massive CES trade show, normally in Las Vegas, was a virtual experience. However, a virtual CES was a hard experience to get used to…
After more than 20 years of covering the trade show in person, attending press conferences and conducting interviews online, I found the experience to be challenging.
The presentations felt, and were in most cases, prerecorded a month prior to CES. Sometimes the press conferences did not have question-and-answer sessions, or canned answers given to executives by public relations people.
This doesn’t happen much during an in-person interview because, frankly, there is nowhere for the interview subject to hide.
In addition, trying to chat with “booth” personnel online was cumbersome and often requests for information were ignored. Again, there are few places to hide in a booth…although <cough> some companies’ booth personnel make themselves scarce at in-person trade shows as well.
The Consumer Technology Association, the entity that runs CES (which hasn’t stood for the Consumer Electronics Show for a few years) says nearly 2,000 companies exhibited, with 19 keynote presentations during media day.
However, SBD Automotive, which has a solid overview of the virtual CES in its First Take slide presentation, said the amount of exhibitors were about a quarter of what it was last year.
“As an analyst you missed what happens between the lines. [You miss] the traditional conversations,” said Jeffrey Hannah, SBD Automotive North America director, in a company YouTube video. “The booth buzz is lost this year. Some companies rehashed what happened last year.”
SBD Automotive estimated that there were 59,000 virtual attendees vs. 170,000 last year (and a high of 188,000 in 2019). In addition, the company said that only five automotive OEMs participated compared to 14 in 2020.
SBD Automotive says that COVID-19 “is unlikely to be fully resolved, so [CES] is likely to continue as virtual until 2023.” This may be a bad scenario for CTA as the show could lose influence and companies may find other ways to announce product offerings, the company said.
There were a few pluses of a virtual CES. The cost and time of attending were at a breaking point. Airfare, lodging, transportation to and from the convention center, crowds/long lines, etc.
Not to mention pandemic safety.
Full LBN CES Coverage
There were a few trends at the virtual CES. One was that there was a de-emphasis on passenger autonomous vehicles.
A case in point is the appearance of both Caterpillar and John Deere at the virtual conference.
Deerfield, Ill.-based Caterpillar, a first-time exhibitor at CES this year, said it has been involved in autonomy and use of GPS for more than two decades. “We were an early adopter of GPS when there were few satellites in the sky,” said Denise Johnson, company group president, resource industries. “We have 350 autonomous trucks operating 24-7 on three continents.”
To Moline, Ill.-based John Deere, exhibiting at the trade show for the third time, agriculture is a high-tech industry that uses GPS, self-driving tractors, artificial intelligence and a multitude of sensors. The company rolled out its first self-driving tractors nearly 20 years ago, said Jahmy Hindman, John Deere CTO.
Indy Challenge Tests Autonomous Race Car in Challenging Environment
At the virtual CES, representatives from the Indy Autonomous Challenge unveiled the Dallara IL-15 race car that will be used in a head-to-head race around the famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Oct. 23.
Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS).
The Indy Autonomous Challenge, organized by Energy Systems Network and Indianapolis Motor Speedway, pits 500 university students, developing autonomous vehicle technology, against each other for a $1.5 million prize.
See Kevin Dennehy’s CES story at GPS World magazine.
Have you ever been reluctant to reveal your personal email address online or in person?
The answer is almost universally YES! So, if you happen to be one of those who thinks twice about these matters, ManyMe might be the answer to your worries.
Webfleet Signs Deal with Mercedes, Eyes North American Expansion
Webfleet and Mercedes-Benz Partner to Offer Integrated Telematics
Amsterdam-based Webfleet Solutions said it is offering an integrated telematics product along with Mercedes-Benz Connectivity Services. The deal, through Mercedes’ OEM.connect partner program, allows the auto giant’s fleet customers to use Webfleet’s software-as-a-service platform (also called Webfleet).
Webfleet said that OEM.connect eliminates the need for an after-market installation, which makes it easier, and cheaper, for fleet managers to use. Some of the applications include fleet performance reporting, trip data, GPS tracking, fuel consumption, tire pressure warnings and other vehicle diagnostics.
OEM.connect for Mercedes-Benz vehicles is available in Austria, Belgium, Germany, Spain, Switzerland, France, Italy, UK, Ireland, Poland and the Netherlands, the company said. The product will be made available in more countries and regions in future.
YouTube video of OEM.connect:
No. 1 in Europe, With Eye for Expansion in North America
Although Raj Bajaj, company vice president, international, didn’t mention the Mercedes deal at the virtual CES 2021 trade show, he said that the company is the “No. 1 in Europe” telematics service provider several times. He said that the company is looking to expand in North America and such other markets as Latin America and Asia.
“Our strategy focuses on Europe, but in establishing our presence, one of the most important [markets] is the United States. We have ambitious plans to roll out our services to new regions in the next two years,” he said. “We see the rise of urbanization and smart cities, IoT, leveraging 5G to the ecosystem, green fleets, climate change [as market drivers]. It’s evident that these issues will change the way that we work.”
As part of the digital exhibition at CES, Webfleet exhibited in parent company Bridgestone’s Virtual City of the Future display that showcased the company’s smart mobility technology.
Bajaj also says the connected car and autonomous vehicles will become a growth catalyst for the company. “The heart of all this is digitization. These megatrends need to be understood, adapted and leveraged [into a digital fleet management platform],” he said. “This is already in use in multiple countries where we take data and import it for actionable [fleet manager] planning to enable efficient routes, safety precautions, compliance with regulations.”
To help battle COVID-19, Webfleet and Canada-based fleet management giant Geotab partnered last year on a Commercial Mobility Recovery Dashboard, which analyzes data from more than 3 million connected vehicles worldwide, the company said. By combining their data, the two companies said they could inform businesses and governments to support pandemic recovery.
“We initially saw a dip initially in March and April [in fleet management sales]. But after that, fleets recovered,” Bajaj said. “We think [Commercial Mobility Recovery Dashboard] will play a critical role on how vaccines will be transported in the right environment. We launched a Safer Fleets initiative in late 2020 to geofence [COVID-19] hotspots in Australia. When a driver enters into a hot zone, they receive a real time alert, which requires extra testing and safety steps.”
Webfleet Solutions launched in 1999 and was eventually purchased by TomTom Telematics in 2005.In 2019, tire giant Bridgestone purchased TomTom Telematics and Webfleet.
Location Industry Briefs
Send your news to firstname.lastname@example.org
FCC Rejects Government Bid to Stop Ligado’s Network
The FCC, on Jan. 19, voted down a proposal by U.S. government agencies to stop its decision that allows Ligado Networks to deploy a nationwide mobile broadband network. The agencies believe that Ligardo’s network will interfere with the GPS signal.
Such companies as Lockheed Martin, Iridium Communications, Air Line Pilots Association, Association of Equipment Manufacturers, International Air Transport Association and Airlines for America filed petitions to ask the FCC to reconsider Ligado’s bid.
The FCC said that Ligado must provide negotiated network partnership agreement, give GPS manufacturers six months’ notice prior to its network’s activation and acquire hundreds of millions to finance its project.
Telit Spurns u-blox Merger Offer
While IoT companies may be attractive M&A candidates as consumer markets develop, at least one company has said ‘no’ to a potential suitor. Telit said earlier this month that it has rejected a merger offer from Swiss GNSS company u-blox Holding AG.
In November, u‑blox had proposed an all-share combination with an offer price of 2.50 euros per Telit share, which the company said “is a compelling proposition for Telit’s shareholders.” U‑blox said it remains “open to discussing with the Board of Telit the strategic benefits of a combination between the two companies.”
HERE Rolls Out Mapping Platform
HERE Technologies introduced a mapping-as-a-service platform at CES. The platform is targeted to businesses wanting to create custom map datasets for advanced analytics and services, the company said. Some use cases include industrial yard mapping, leveraging probe data from private vehicle fleets in order to create or update a map.
GM’s eVTOL Concept Aircraft Announced
GM CEO Mary Barra, at CES, unveiled a single-seat electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) concept aircraft. The aircraft will be developed for future use as an air taxi. Barra briefly mentioned that the company’s Super Cruise self-driving technology will be integrated into 22 car models in a few years. The company also rolled out an electric vehicle for deliveries that can travel 250 miles on a charge and a motorized pallet for deliveries that can be tracked.
Mercedes-Benz Hyperscreen Features Travel Knowledge
The Mercedes-Benz’ MBUX Hyperscreen, rolled out at CES, evaluates map data, surroundings and provides information about landmarks along a route, said Sajjad Khan, company CTO and member of the board of management. The new map feature, called Mercedes Travel Knowledge, allows a passenger or driver to ask a question as they drive by a landmark (“hey, Mercedes, what can you tell me about this building?”). The MBUX Hyperscreen is available in the new S-Class cars.
GPS Pioneer Dies
GPS pioneer Dr. James Litton died earlier this month, he was 89. Jim, who was CEO of Litton Consulting Group, helped to launch one of the first GPS receivers at Magnavox, where he was a senior vice president and general manager. He was a co-founder of NavCom, which was purchased by John Deere in 1999.
Mobileye Plans to Test Autonomous Fleets in Four Cities
Intel subsidiary Mobileye plans to launch autonomous vehicle fleet testing in Detroit, Paris, Shanghai and Toyko. The announcement, made at CES by CEO Amnon Shashua, said that the company also plans to test in New York City, pending regulatory approval.
The company also plans to use in-house-built lidar sensors, while continuing to champion its camera-based testing. “We are using crowd-sourced data through the Cloud to build high-definition maps at scale,” Shashua said. “Thousands of product vehicles are sending us data.”
“Unfortunately, I still see all of this as simply ‘eye candy’ to sell something that actually has no intention of delivering what it is implying. I still claim that the business case is zero, doesn’t exist, for personally-owned autonomous vehicles.” Alain Kornhauser, Princeton University, in Smart Driving Cars.
Shashua addressed a moderator’s question that cameras alone cannot be the technology of choice for autonomous vehicles. “The camera first is crucial from a technology and business point of view. We have to find out what is acceptable failure for Level 4 autonomy. Camera-only is ideal, but pushing the envelope for driver-assistance systems,” he said. “Consumer AV will take place in the 2025 timeframe. [Eventually], we can build lidar and radar to the same performance levels as camera systems. Lidar and radar can be added later for redundancy, but only for Level 4.”
Level 4 Autonomous Driving Could Take Years…
Shashua said getting to Level 4 could take a decade, but that would be unsustainable unless there are government-funded projects to keep companies afloat. “By 2025, a subsystem will be good enough for consumers. Regulation is critical and sometimes it’s difficult to leap to a consumer level,” he said.
Not everyone believes what Mobileye is testing constitutes “driverless” status. To Alain Kornhauser Princeton University professor and transportation program director, who was head of the university’s team during the 2005 DARPA Challenge, not many companies are capable of full driverless capability.
“Unfortunately, I still see all of this as simply ‘eye candy’ to sell something that actually has no intention of delivering what it is implying. I still claim that the business case is zero, doesn’t exist, for personally-owned autonomous vehicles,” Kornhauser said in his Smart Driving Cars weekly newsletter. “Mobileye is nowhere close to being able to operate safely on most roads, let alone all roads. Thus, the consumer market has zero opportunity to scale.”
Kornhauser said that driverless testing is being conducted only in one place, Phoenix, by Waymo. “Neither Tesla nor Mobileye are driverless anywhere. They both require on-board human driver supervision,” he said. “That's why they are only self-driving [tests].”