VERSAILLES, France – If the government knows exactly where a vehicle is at all times, every street could become a toll way on which a motorist is charged for the number of miles driven.
Drivers who press the pedal to the metal could be penalized for wasting fuel, and cities could do away with their camera systems and instead use satellite information to charge motorists for speeding.
Private business could collect fees at parking lots automatically when a driver enters. And by using what is called “geofencing,” a trucking company could track the movements of its drivers.
Despite certain invasion-of-privacy issues being raised by industry watchers, the Intelligent Transportation System movement continues to gain traction in Europe.
The European Union is studying a number of projects that involve precise positioning since Europe’s version of North America’s Global Positioning System satellites was put into service last October.
EGNOS, which stands for European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service, is free to users, and the European Commission has invited manufacturers of navigation equipment to integrate EGNOS signals from satellites and ground stations into GPS units.
Proponents say basic GPS signals have a potential error of up to 56 ft. (17 m), but EGNOS can reduce that to 6.6 ft. (2 m).
Prices for vehicle-navigation systems are falling rapidly, and consultant Frederic Bruneteau says, in Europe, “We believe the connected car will be the norm in 2020.”
The auto industry will welcome improved accuracy, because customers complain when a navigation system tells a driver to “make a U-turn if possible” on an expressway.
Early results from EGNOS are only mildly encouraging.
At a meeting of ATEC-ITS, a public-private organization of groups interested in road transportation, a French researcher says mixing EGNOS and GPS signals helps improve accuracy up to 10%-20%.
An existing high-end GPS system known as the PolarX2 already is accurate to within 3.3 ft. (1 m).
In some cities, where signals echo off buildings and cause the greatest errors, EGNOS signals often are unavailable.
Francois Peyret, head of the geolocalization section for the Laboratoire Central des Ponts et Chaussees, says better results could be achieved, but the cost of the extra equipment needed is proportional to the improvement seen.
Europe is pushing ahead with its satellite program called Galileo, as well. Two satellites currently are functioning, used by the EGNOS program, and a third already in orbit will soon be put into service.
By 2013, says Roger Pagny of the French sustainable development commission, 18-20 satellites will be in space, and about 40 will cover the entire world in 2017.
Several years ago, the EU failed to interest private enterprise in funding the Galileo project, and the auto industry was among opponents of the expense involved.
Europe forged ahead partly for political reasons, wanting to be independent of the American military control over the GPS system. Galileo is run by Europe’s civilian space agency.
Now that signals from Galileo are available, the navigation industry will use them, says Philippe Orvain, whose company, Nomadic Solutions SA, sells technology that helps people drive in more fuel-conscience ways.