Road Grade Measurement Using In-Vehicle, Stand-Alone GPS with Barometric Altimeter

Real-world vehicle fuel use and emission rates are sensitive to road grade. There is a need for a practical method for measuring road grade in combination with on-board measurement of vehicle activity, energy use, and emissions using portable emissions measurement systems (PEMS). This paper focuses on quantification of the accuracy and precision of a low-cost method using a stand-alone global positioning system (GPS) receiver with an in-built barometric altimeter. Approximately 100 one-way runs were made on each of several study routes. The sensitivity of average grade estimates to the averaging distance over which grade is estimated is quantified. The repeatability of vehicle location and distance traveled is quantified. The run-to-run variability and confidence intervals for average estimates of grade are quantified. The accuracy of the grade estimates is evaluated in comparison to LIDAR-based estimates. The low-cost method is shown to be accurate, but imprecision in the measurements leads to a need for typically at least 10 or more repeated runs, depending on the desired precision of the average estimate of grade.


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  • Accession Number: 01482050
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS, ASCE
  • Created Date: May 10 2013 2:02PM