This project involved the research and development of an ‘off-board’ vehicle navigation system using GPS. An ‘off-board’ system is different to existing systems in that the route data is obtained from a central base station via a communication link, rather than from a CD in the vehicle.
This enables the vehicle unit to be much cheaper and the route information is always up to date (and can be adjusted depending on road closures, traffic flows, etc).
We took this project from an initial concept to a complete prototype system, which was installed in a vehicle and was exhibited at the International Automobile Exhibition in Frankfurt, Germany.
The initial work involved a feasibility study in which algorithms were developed for the navigation of the vehicle along the route. This involved writing a program with Microsoft Visual C++, which showed a graphical representation of each road junction and the direction which the driver should take.
This also involved writing low-level device drivers to interface with either the SEL or Trimble GPS receivers. In addition, wrote an interface to the cellular telephone link (using SMS – short message service) which formed the communication link from the vehicle to the base station.
At this stage we wrote (together with a colleague) several patents on the subject of navigation with GPS, which have since been published:
Wrote the complete software for an embedded version of the system which was installed in the test vehicle. This was written in ‘C’ using the EUROS (now called EUROSplus) real-time operating system. I also wrote the user interface using Watcom C++ and the GX Graphics Development Tools from Genus Microprogramming.
This project consisted of only four engineers, which really convinced us that small teams of dedicated people can usually achieve more than larger teams, partly because of the reduced need for communication and discussion within the team.