Interview with Laura Val Ibort, Business Developer and Marketing & Communication Manager at Rokubun
In a recent interview, we had the pleasure of speaking with Laura Val, Business Developer and Marketing & Communication Manager at Rokubun, a company that specializes in developing innovative solutions focused on accurate and scalable Navigation technologies. During our conversation, Laura shared her insights and expertise on a wide range of topics, including robotic transport, rail transport, and geolocation, providing her valuable perspectives on what the future may hold in these fields.
- Why has robotic transport been used for decades in industrial buildings, but it’s anecdotal on European streets?
Although it has been used in industries for years, the robotization of transportation is more complicated to bring to society because it requires a series of regulations and legislation. In addition, there is the issue of liability, because when a person is driving a car, he is responsible for the vehicle, however, there may come a time when the degree of automation is so large that the driver will no longer be responsible for his vehicle, so you have to answer first to who is responsible for this vehicle, under what circumstances, and what happens if this vehicle has an accident.
- Can we rely on robotic transport, and is it safe?
I think it’s probably safer than the transportation we have today. But then, there is a security problem, which is the issue of hacking. If a car is robotized, it is because signals are controlling it, and these can be hacked. A great effort is being made to make the signal secure. This will be one of the important steps in the robotization of mobility.
- What is the current status of rail transport robotization and what is expected in the future?
Regarding rail transport, the European Commission published a White Paper years ago in which it aimed to ensure that the main European capitals were all connected by train and not so much by plane. So, to optimize the capacity of railways, what is being studied is how to connect the trains in base stations, through sensor and camera signals, and through GPS or the European equivalent, which is Galileo, to know the speed at which the trains go so that you can reduce the space between one train and another. In this way, on a track where maybe ten trains could fit in one day, now can maybe twelve or fifteen, or even more. For example, we are working on projects in which we are using the satellite signal to position the train, see how fast it is going, and reduce the space between one train and another to improve and optimize the capacity of the track.
- What is the state of the autonomous vehicle today, and in the future?
Today, vehicles have a certain degree of autonomy, for example, they have a series of cameras and radars by which the car moves if it detects an obstacle, or if it detects that you are leaving your lane. The car already redirects itself, but always with manual driving. There is still a lot of debate as to what extent the car can be fully autonomous. Regarding this debate, last week, Elon Musk said that Tesla is going to be fully autonomous. At the public level, there are pilot projects in which autonomous vehicles are already circulating, but always in controlled environments.
- How can Galileo facilitate autonomous mobility?
The European Commission is putting a lot of emphasis on how it can facilitate the whole deployment of autonomous mobility. Right now, vehicle autonomy comes from a relative point of view: the vehicle has a series of cameras and detectors to see what’s around it. But for it to be truly autonomous, you need to have absolute positioning of the car, to know exactly where it is and how fast it is going. For this, we use satellite signals. In the European case, with Galileo, you can know exactly where the vehicle is and identify the track and positioning along the whole route of that vehicle. In addition, Galileo offers several services. One is Galileo HAS (High Accuracy Service) which sends data that allows a much more precise location of the vehicle. The other is Galileo OS-NMA (open service – Navigation Message Authentication), an authentication service that authenticates the signal you are receiving.
For example, at Rokubun we are working on two projects with EUSPA, the European Space Program Agency, on the location of moving devices, both vehicles and smartphones. One of them is called BANSHEE, and what we do is hybridize the signal coming from GNSS with other types of signals, such as WIFI or 5G, which allows us to never lose the location of the vehicle. Right now, it serves for the current navigation of the vehicle, but in the case of autonomous vehicles, it would greatly improve the entire track from the moment it leaves the garage until it is parked. The other project we are working on is called UNION. To maintain the continuity of the track of the vehicle, what is done is to take the different base stations that are in the territory, and then, a mesh of virtual stations is created, so you have many more points to which you can connect your device. This means that connectivity is never lost and can be extrapolated to any territory.