Road markings, signals and gantries simulate an urban road layout (credit INNOVITS)

Centre opens for road-testing intelligent transport systems

An international centre for developing intelligent transport systems (ITS) has opened for business in Britain's West Midlands.

Located within the MIRA vehicle engineering consultancy campus near Nuneaton, InnovITS Advance offers customers a safe, controlled and private environment with all the road and telecoms infrastructure they need to develop and test applications that rely on communications between vehicles and the highway or other vehicles, typically to improve safety or efficiency or to manage traffic flows.

The centre was formally opened on 27 June by David Pearson, chairman of innovITS, the UK centre for excellence in intelligent transport systems, CEO Phil Pettitt, and MIRA chief executive George Gillespie.

The 4km road network is configurable to simulate an urban driving environment anywhere in the world, with a 2km outer circumference of test track and a network of junctions and intersections, including a five-lane section. There are full urban road markings, traffic signals, steel gantries for installing equipment over the road, and CCTV for monitoring, control and demonstration.

Equally important are the fully controllable private communications networks - 3G, GSM and Wi-Fi - allowing virtually any scenario of signal attenuation and denial to be created and replicated.

Users will be able to validate the performance of their systems with the help of high-resolution GNSS positioning to an accuracy of 20cm and a ground-truth video system. Other facilities include 3D visualisation to help customers prepare their test programmes before they arrive on site, a GNSS denial facility to replicate 'difficult' environments, and mobile dummies for testing pedestrian detection systems. Built on mechanised bases, these will have visual, radar and thermal signatures and come in adult male, female and child versions.

Nottingham Scientific Ltd (NSL) developed the SkyClone GNSS denial system, which was demonstrated at the launch. SkyClone lets users create an artificially degraded satnav environment, simulating the signal blockage that happens in urban canyons and tunnels or interference caused by jamming and spoofing. Using software, the test track is divided into zones that are assigned characteristics such as high-rise buildings, residential or parkland. Then the desired signal reception is applied. Finally the entire scenario is saved onto an SD card that can be inserted into a piece of equipment in the test vehicle to feed the information to the onboard satnav receiver. A separate antenna is fitted to pick up the facility's high-resolution GNSS signal so the true position at any time can be compared with the apparent one derived from the degraded signal.

Pearson described the launch as a highly significant milestone: "This world-leading facility is open for business. It will enable engineers from the automotive, telematics, telecoms and transportation sectors to work together to pull forward many new technologies and innovations that might otherwise never reach the market."

InnovITS Advance is a joint project of InnovITS, MIRA and transport research business TRL, with financial support from Advantage West Midlands and BIS.

MIRA's Gillespie told E&T that having InnovITS Advance as a tenant would be an asset in attracting customers to the new technology park the organisation plans to develop on its campus. In particular, foreign manufacturers wanting to enter the European market would be able to take advantage of all the facilities available in one place without having to build from scratch or arrange transport between sites for non-road-legal vehicles. "We're actively talking to customers in Korea and China," he said.

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