Survey reveals consumer self-driving concerns amidst GPS spoofing threat

Focal Point aims to boost self-driving trust by thwarting GPS spoofing

According to a new survey conducted by YouGov on behalf of Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) specialist Focal Point Positioning, 48.9% of consumers still believe self-driving cars will make our roads more dangerous.

Key concerns, the Cambridge-based company found, relate to the reliability of the technology, liability for accidents, vulnerability to cyberattack, and potential subscription costs. Of particular interest to Focal Point was the threat of GPS spoofing, which it says is on the rise.

Self-driving safety threat

Spoofing is a form of cyberattack that targets positioning systems such as GPS, with spoofers broadcasting fake signals to confuse the GNSS receiver, potentially interfering with vehicle navigation, ADAS and automated driving systems.

Manuel Del Castillo, VP of Business Development at Focal Point, has over 20 years’ experience in the GNSS industry, having previously worked for semiconductor manufacturer Broadcom.

Manuel Del Castillo, VP of Business Development at Focal Point
Manuel Del Castillo, VP of Business Development at Focal Point

“Our S-GNSS Auto solution is a software upgrade to the existing GNSS sensor in the car,” he said. “GNSS sensors are a marvel of engineering, able to compute an absolute position – latitude, longitude and altitude – anywhere in the world. However, they can suffer from accuracy problems in urban environments due to all the reflections off buildings, and they can also be subjected to RF cyberattacks, known as spoofing.

“Spoofers send malicious signals pretending to be the satellite signals, which can expose the naive design of some GNSS sensors. To combat this, our S-GNSS Auto software can run in the GNSS chips of any of the major chipmakers in the automotive industry, to generate a ‘trust zone’ around the GPS sensor.

“It can also be useful in improving the performance of suboptimal antennas, which vehicle manufacturers sometimes use because they are easier to conceal and don’t interfere so much with the design, for instance, those embedded in windscreens.

“We already have strategic investment from General Motors and are in discussion with manufacturers in Europe and the US.”

The full survey report is available via

California-based Xona Space is working on new generation Low Earth Orbit GPS for self-driving cars.

Next generation: self-driving GPS is out of this world

Our Zenzic CAM Creator series continues with the Co-Founder and CEO of Xona Space, Brian Manning.

Compared to the familiar British reserve, California-based Xona Space is from a different planet. This self-declared “group of space ninjas, engineers, GPS nerds, motorcycle racers and adventurers” has helped to put over 50 vehicles in space and published over 50 scientific papers on navigation technology. That’s handy because today’s sat navs are creaking under the sky high requirements of self-driving cars. Brian Manning says his company’s new Pulsar positioning, navigation and timing (PNT) service will provide the necessary security, availability and accuracy.

BM: “We’re primarily working on new generation GPS from Low Earth Orbit (LEO) – something much more secure, precise and resilient. It will sure-up a lot of issues. GPS has been phenomenal, it has given a lot of value for a long time, but people are now trying to use it for applications it wasn’t designed for. It’s tough to get where you’re going when you don’t know where you are.”

A reference perhaps to the GPS spoofing incident at the 2019 Geneva Motor Show, when cars from a host of manufacturers displayed their location as Buckingham, England, in 2036! Apparently Americans also do sarcasm now. We swiftly move on to realistic timescales for the SAE levels of driving automation.

BM: “Ubiquitos Level5 is probably still far off, but personally I think we’ll start seeing deployments in contained environments within five years. I came from SpaceX so I know that with the right team you can get an amazing amount done in a very short time. A big part of Xona’s focus is to get Level5 tech out of the contained environments and also to work in bad weather and more rural environments, where current systems struggle. Rather than which sectors will be early adopters, I look more geographically – to highways with autonomous lanes. That said, it will probably be more on the freight side first because there’s more safety standards involved when you have passengers on board.”

We were wondering which might come first, Level5 or a winner in the Presidential election, but that’s all sorted now, isn’t it?

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