Rome, 13 December 2022

• Preview of HELMET project results presented in Rome
• Main railway and road operators involved
• Italy European “laboratory” of satellite technologies for
intelligent transportation

Connected and autonomous driving represents the new frontier of mobility
and an unprecedented challenge involving research, industry and regulatory
bodies from all over the world. The new paradigm is a vehicle that is always
connected, geolocalized and resilient to possible cyber- attacks. But today
it is more urgent than ever to make use of intelligent, safe and sustainable
transport systems capable of making energy use more efficient and
reducing CO2 emissions.
The application of GNSS technology (Global Navigation Satellite
System) – the satellite navigation system that makes use of GPS, Galileo
and other constellations – guarantees a precise and safe location for selfdriving
vehicles traveling on railway and road infrastructures. The European
standard for railway signaling ERTMS (European Rail Traffic
Management System) and technologies for connected and autonomous
cars (CCAM) will have to interface with the GNSS network to develop an
increasingly sustainable and competitive system. But new technologies
need to be shared and compliant with safety standards before becoming
operational and this process requires continuous interactions with industry
and operators.
These are the main topics addressed during the workshop that took place
yesterday, December 12th, at the Roma Tre University on the occasion of
the presentation of the results of the HELMET project – High integrity
EGNSS Layer for Multimodal Eco-friendly Transportation – funded by EU
H2020 – EUSPA and coordinated by Radiolabs with partners ITC,
University of Pardubice, DLR, SOGEI and Roboauto.
HELMET, in fact, has given life to an innovative project – the first in Europe
– to create a solution aimed at making GNSS signals compatible with the
safety and interoperability standards required by ERTMS, by CCAM and by
drones which can be used for operations of maintenance and logistic
transport on the railway and road network.
The HELMET workshop, opened by prof. Alessandro Neri – Pro-Rector for
Innovation and Technology Transfer of the Roma Tre University, scientific
coordinator of HELMET – has been a unique opportunity to involve the
players of the sector to focus on the challenges that railways and road
operators will have to face to benefit from the European GNSS
infrastructures with EGNOS and Galileo.
Anna Masutti, president of RFI (FS Group), in her greeting message
underlined the importance of GNSS technologies for the railway sector as
evidenced by the commitment made by RFI in the various research and
innovation projects conducted since 2012 in Europe which confirmed the
expectations. These technologies are now mature and can be integrated
into ERTMS, the most advanced system for the supervision and control of
train distancing, installed on a part of the Italian lines and which will
be implemented on 3,400 km of network by 2026 thanks to a PNRR
funding of about 3 billion euros. By 2036, it is planned to equip the
entire national rail network with ERTMS technology. “And this will be
one of the great innovative challenges that we are facing and on which we
are constantly committed – highlighted Anna Masutti – that is to make
satellite technologies to interface with ground systems, in this case ERTMS,
to control and manage the movement of trains, contributing to increase
the safety and capacity of the lines, and to reduce carbon dioxide
emissions into the environment”.
Carlo des Dorides, former executive director of EUSPA, congratulated
for the considerable progress in recent years in the diffusion of GNSS
technologies in the railway and road ecosystems, which have demonstrated
important technological synergies in the HELMET project. Des Dorides also
underlined the need to accelerate the operational development
times of the new systems, to respond to global challenges with a shared
plan that focuses on the needs of operators who have already started
substantial investments. Finally, des Dorides emphasized the central role
of EUSPA, which has the exact task of promoting the use of GNSS in the
various sectors, and in particular that of transport, which will probably
become the largest user of GNSS systems in Europe too given the positive
experiences in the USA and Asia.
Fabio Senesi, Senior Manager Head ERTMS Plan of RFI, in presenting
the ERTMS plan which is being implemented according to the planning of
the PNRR, underlined “the importance of being able to have new
technologies – such as satellite ones which improve economic sustainability
and environment by making the ERTMS system more competitive. Senesi
adds, “a collective effort is needed to overcome the regulatory obstacles to
introduce satellite technologies in which RFI has been investing since 2012
with the contribution of the Italian, European and EUSPA Space Agencies
and which now involves all stakeholders and railway companies. The
moment is propitious because the automotive industry has also launched
enormous investments in the connected car from which positive effects are
expected in the railway sector thanks to the production volumes that only
the automotive industry can set in motion. RFI – concludes Senesi – with
the ERTMS Accelerated Plan – first in Europe in terms of size – has created
the technological conditions for adopting satellite, 5G, ATO with the aim of
modernizing the railway infrastructure by focusing on technological
A great interest for GNSS has been expressed by the interventions of
potential users.
Gabriele Ridolfi, technical director of ERTMS Users Group,
highlighted the expectations of the main European railways in order to have
a safe, interoperable and economically sustainable solution that allows the
use of GNSS technology in order to improve the “train positioning” function,
with consequent benefits in terms of safety, performance and economic
sustainability. Ridolfi also added that the plan for achieving the
aforementioned objectives, and in particular for standardization at the
European level, must be correlated with the roadmap of the Europe’s Rail
Joint Undertaking (ERJU) research and innovation programme, which
involves all the main industries and railway operators.
“The Anas Smart Road – declared Luigi Carrarini, Center of Excellence
Smart Road & SHM of Anas (FS Group) – is the key element of the
mobility of the future, enabling for the development of Smart Mobility and
preparatory to future scenarios of autonomous driving of vehicles. It is a
revolutionary passage, from the road intended as a civil work made up of
asphalt and concrete to an intelligent and connected road, a digital and
energetically sustainable corridor for the benefit and safety of the territories
Benedetto Carambia, R&D manager of Movyon Gruppo Autostrade
per l’Italia, illustrated the Mercury program indicating its main
cornerstones, which include both the innovative mobility
solutions developed by Movyon, and the trials of additional services to
support connected and autonomous driving that integrate with the
positioning capabilities based on satellite systems
The technological synergies between ERTMS and connected and
autonomous driving cars were the subject of the speech by Massimiliano
Ciaffi, Head of ERTMS on board subsystems at RFI, who explained
that safe and accurate satellite localization and video sensors are common
for control of trains (ERTMS) and connected driving cars. RFI’s know-how
in the ERTMS system and that acquired on satellite research projects are a
unique asset that can also be put to good use for smart roads programs
and in general for the search for solutions aimed at guaranteeing high
safety standards thanks to synergies with the automotive sector.
Alberto Tuozzi of ASI, head of unit for relations with the EU, in his
speech stated that ASI has been alongside RFI since 2012 by supporting
various research projects which are part of a common roadmap which also
involves ESA and EUSPA for the introduction of satellite technologies in the
ERTMS system. This commitment will also continue in the coming years
starting with the development of a multi-modal augmentation network,
whose tender was recently published, to respond to both ERTMS and Smart
Roads with the aim of contributing to a pan- European standard system.
Daniel Lopour, EUSPA Market Development Officer, highlighted the
importance of HELMET as a driver of the technological synergies between
Rail and Road and shared the next actions to achieve the goal of full
integration of GNSS in ERTMS systems. In his speech, he highlighted the
need of convergence towards a pan-European augmentation solution,
with EGNOS being the common denominator of the different solution
architectures using European GNSS for fail-safe train localization in frame
of ERTMS. Lopour also encouraged further participation of railway
undertakings, infrastructure managers and the industrial players in EUSPA
R&D programme, linking the effort with the EU-Rail Innovation and
System pillars as key tools to facilitate this convergence with the objective
to enable GNSS inclusion in relevant ERTMS technical specifications for
interoperability by 2027.
Maria Jose Garcia Prieto, project officer in the ERTMS and Telematics
Unit at ERA, described the process to introduce innovations into the ERTMS
regulatory framework underlining the importance of the alignment between
all the actors of the sector and the key role that ERJU and System Pillar will
play on that. Furthermore, most of the new technologies foreseen for the
evolution of the ERTMS are already planned for the connected and
autonomous cars. This synergy should be exploited as a means to
accelerate the adoption of new technologies for the ERTMS.
ANSFISA looks with great interest at the opportunity represented by
satellite systems, as reiterated by Giulio Margarita, of the Agency’s
Railway Safety Department, speaking of a technological innovation very
useful for raising safety standards overall: from the application of these
systems effective solutions can emerge for real-time monitoring of traffic,
for maintenance, for the management of potential critical situations. It is
essential to accompany the introduction of new instruments, which
continue to evolve towards greater accuracy and reliability, Margarita
underlined, with the development of a univocal European regulatory
framework expression of the best technical skills in the field.

The results of the HELMET project
In the afternoon session, the achievements of the HELMET project were
presented by the HELMET team in front of an audience of international
experts, showing also the recent results of two field tests, on the Rome-
Fiumicino motorway and on the Cagliari-San Gavino railways. These
tests have demonstrated the capability of the HELMET system in
operational environments with specifically designed localization units
installed respectively on a car and a train. The car’s Mobile On-Board Unit
developed by DLR with Roboauto, is based on a multi-sensor enabled by
accurate GNSS measurements, Augmentation messages, RTK solution,
filtering with inertial sensor and the support from video camera. The train’s
Mobile On-Board Unit developed by Radiolabs based also on a multi-sensor
with GNSS, IMU, Augmentation messages, plus LIDAR and video camera,
was tested in the field in a version with GNSS-IMU loose coupling mode in
line with the short term ERTMS needs.
The HELMET architecture is composed by two layers. The 1st tier reuse GPS
and Galileo navigation satellites and SBAS corrections and integrity
information provided over a ground-based communication link. A secure
communications network (along with direct signal transmission) links this
1st tier to the 2nd tier, which includes local-area GNSS augmentation
based upon networks of ground reference receivers located near where
users operate. This 2nd tier – provided during the tests by a local network
of Sogei – is a novelty of HELMET looking to the perspective of federating
other networks to ensure a capillary coverage. Another novelty of HELMET
is that the same architecture supports three classes of users: rail, smart
roads /connected cars, and UAV with separate “adaptation layers,” as
the augmentation provided by the 2nd tier will be translated into information
customized to each user type and formatted accordingly.
Sam Pullen from Stanford University – one of the leading GNSS experts
in the world – concluded the technical session by presenting the GNSS
techniques being adopted internationally and provided useful indications to
consolidate the HELMET results in anticipation of its next phase planned
before operational use. According to Pullen, HELMET improves and expands
upon multi-tier GNSS augmentation concept of the previous project
RHINOS. Yet it allows user service level improvement over time provided
by mature augmentations (SBAS and GBAS) which are improving with
multi-frequency, multi-constellation service.
Newer augmentations (PPP and RTK) to localize a vehicle with a “meter or
less” accuracy can theoretically meet all rail/road performance
requirements and the next step is to certify the integrity. Pullen underlined
the need to continue current activities to build a safety case for mature
augmentation tiers and the evaluation of road and rail user multipath
errors. And also, to investigate RTK/NRTK performance with subsets of
existing local-area reference stations in Italy and test use of Advanced
RAIM in OBU as final check on user integrity.
The closing of the works was entrusted to Francesco Rispoli, general
manager of Radiolabs, who recall that the HELMET project is the result
of an international collaboration born with the RHINOS project at a time
when the possible synergies between rail and automotive could be glimpsed
in a vision shared with prof. Per Enge of Stanford University, one of the
“fathers” of GPS. “With today’s workshop we can say that HELMET has
demonstrated that we are on the right path, encouraged to continue
exploiting technological synergies. Looking to the User expectations and
the Agency’s views presented in the morning session we can look to the
near future with the awareness that are already in a new era entrusted by
an even stronger collaboration to respond to clear challenges for safer and
more sustainable transport means”, concluded Rispoli.

HELMET is a Project funded by the Horizon 2020 program of the European Union through EUSPA –
Grant Agreement No: 870257