Thales, OSCP Partner on Optical Inertial Technology

Written by William C. Vantuono, Editor-in-Chief
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OSCP’s gyroscope chips integrated on an eight-inch silicon wafer are a key part of the inertial Measurement Units (IMU). Photo: OSCP

Thales and Montreal-based technology startup OSCP (One Silicon Chip Photonics) are developing an optical inertial technology-based autonomous-train positioning device.

Supported by the ENCQOR (Evolution of Networked Services Through a Corridor in Quebec and Ontario for Research and Innovation) 5G program, the purpose of which is “fostering innovative Canada-Quebec-Ontario partnerships in the field of 5G wireless technologies,” the Thales/OSCP partnership aims to test a high-performance optical inertial sensor system on an autonomous train platform. The goal is to develop sensing and navigation capabilities that can be deployed in semi-autonomous and autonomous vehicles in urban and main line rail environments.

Thales and OSCP will develop an IMU (Inertial Measurement Unit) prototype that will be tested onboard the Thales Train Autonomy Platform. When combined with 5G capabilities, the embedded IMU “will allow Thales to track the location of the autonomous train platform, even when operating in complex zones where global navigation satellite systems cannot provide adequate performance for navigation,” the companies said.

During a nine-month period, the IMU system will be tested in a field environment. The project will conclude with a demonstration at the York-Durham Heritage Railway test site in Uxbridge, Ontario to confirm the capacity of the system to provide an accurate position when integrated on a rail vehicle.

Thales is one of the five global technology leaders of ENCQOR, which “provides access for small to medium enterprises to showcase their innovations and 5G technologies alongside industry leaders.”

“The partnership with Thales and OSCP will allow autonomous rail technologies to be further enhanced, enabling smarter, safer, greener and more advanced systems to be developed here in Canada,” said Walter Kinio, Vice President Research and Innovation, Thales. “We are delighted to partner with OSCP on this exciting project, and Thales will continue to be a strong supporter of the ENCQOR program.”

“We are proud to partner with such a respected IMU market leader as Thales, with their world-class expertise in autonomous train positioning,” said OSCP CEO Kazem Zandi. “Our proprietary Photonics Integrated Circuits (PIC)-based IMU technology will be demonstrated on a Thales platform as a more accurate, lower cost alternative to existing market solutions. We are grateful for the generous support of ENCQOR to enable potential collaborations such as this for Quebec-based companies.”

“ENCQOR is very happy to support this partnership between Thales and OSCP through its state-of-the-art test bed and 5G network,” said ENCQOR General Manager Pierre Boucher. This project is a very good example of a collaborative approach to ensure the accelerated development of a new, very promising solution. The optical inertial measurement unit jointly developed by Thales and OSCP is expected to have a significant impact in the deployment of autonomous and semi-autonomous vehicles used in particular in public transport and the rail sector.”

Thales is set to be acquired by Hitachi Rail.

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