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Case Studies

AMZ’s Driverless Race Car Takes The Lead With Advanced Navigation’s Spatial Dual

Stephane RecouvreurBy September 28th, 2021No Comments

AMZ’s autonomous race car needed a GNSS/INS solution that could keep up its high speeds

The Academic Motorsports Club Zurich (AMZ) required a GNSS/INS solution that could provide accurate heading data to navigate a racecourse at high speeds
Spatial Dual’s integrated dual antenna system gathered information about the car’s heading and ensure it stayed within the racecourse boundaries

The Academic Motorsports Club Zurich (AMZ) was founded in 2006 by students of ETH Zurich with the mission to “push the limits of autonomous racing and inspire young minds to take on challenges in engineering and business”. It’s this ethos that has propelled AMZ to impressive displays at the annual Formula Student competitions across Europe, which reward innovation and initiative.

After developing three combustion engine cars, AMZ began developing electric racing cars in 2010. In 2016, the buzz around AMZ was palpable after they broke the 0 to 100kph world record set by an electric car. The vehicle reached 100kph in just 1.513 seconds. In comparison, the typical range for F1 race cars is between 2.1 to 2.7 seconds. 

AMZ’s pursuit of excellence was particularly prominent when it competed in the Formula Student Driverless competition in 2017. The competition challenges student teams to build a high-performance autonomous race car. 

To ensure their latest autonomous car would maintain a competitive edge, AMZ needed a high accuracy inertial navigation system (INS) with a very high update rate to account for the car’s incredible speed.

The Challenge: Keeping a high-speed autonomous car on the race course

The Formula Student Driverless is not won solely by the team with the fastest car, but rather by the team who could develop an autonomous car that could perform in the disciplines of engineering, cost, and business planning. 

Furthermore, each of these disciplines would test the abilities of the autonomous car:

  • Acceleration: An acceleration race over 75 m distance with a standing start.
  • Skid Pad: Autonomous driving on a track shaped like an eight to test the lateral acceleration of the car.
  • Autocross: Autonomous racing on an unknown track. The car has to map and localize on the fly.
  • Track Drive & Efficiency: An autonomous race over 10 laps on a circuit with straights, tight and high-speed corners. The Efficiency scoring rates the consumed amount of energy in relation to the total time. 

AMZ’s latest car, Gotthard, was originally designed for Formula Student’s electric racing competition. The team updated Gotthard’s design to use an autonomous system for the 2018 Formula Student Driverless competition. 

Named after the famous Swiss mountain pass, Gotthard weighed only 181 kilograms. With 156kw, the power-to-weight ratio is 0.86 kW/kg, a value that exceeds even supercars and gives the prototype its tremendous acceleration.

As the Formula Student Driverless competition is an autonomous race, a high-performance inertial measurement unit (IMU) and global navigation satellite system (GNSS) are among the most critical components of an autonomous vehicle. 

In particular, Gotthard would use LiDAR to distinguish between the different colored cones that marked the race track in order to navigate the course efficiently. AMZ needed a reliable solution with centimeter-level accuracy that would allow it to observe and rectify non-expected behavior. 

Choosing the right solution can be the difference between staying on track…or not.

The Solution: The Spatial Dual

AMZ selected Advanced Navigation Spatial Dual, a ruggedized GNSS-aided inertial navigation system (INS) that provides accurate position, velocity, acceleration, and orientation. 

First of all, its gyros and accelerometers have very low noise, which allowed us to have an accurate motion model for our Simultaneous Localization and Mapping (SLAM) module. In addition, thanks to its two antennas, the heading accuracy is extremely high even at standstill. This accuracy combined with the velocity measurements from the GPS, and its IMU, allowed us to get robust velocity estimates even when the car is drifting or performing non-standard maneuvers

Miguel de la Iglesia VallsChief Technical Officer, AMZ Race Car

The Outcome: Enabling high-speed performance with a high-accuracy INS

“The Advanced Navigation Spatial Dual we used in our driverless racing car this season was a great choice” said AMZ Chief Technical Officer Miguel de la Iglesia Valls.

The team was amazed by the performance of Advanced Navigation’s inertial navigation system. 

”First of all, its gyros and accelerometers have very low noise, which allowed us to have an accurate motion model for our Simultaneous Localization and Mapping (SLAM) module. In addition, thanks to its two antennas, the heading accuracy is extremely high even at standstill. This accuracy combined with the velocity measurements from the GPS, and its IMU, allowed us to get robust velocity estimates even when the car is drifting or performing non-standard maneuvers” continued Miguel.

“The Advanced Navigation Spatial Dual we used in our driverless racing car this season was a great choice” said AMZ Chief Technical Officer Miguel de la Iglesia Valls.

The team was amazed by the performance of Advanced Navigation’s inertial navigation system. 

The AMZ race car in action

Certus Evo

Replacing the Spatial Dual, Certus Evo is a groundbreaking dual antenna GNSS aided Inertial Navigation System (INS) that provides extremely accurate position, velocity, acceleration, and orientation. It offers near FOG performance combined with the reliability of MEMS sensors. Low SWaP-C (Size, Weight, Power, and Cost) and multiple communication interfaces make for easy integration. It is available in both OEM and rugged packages.