O2 and European Space Agency to test satellite connectivity for self-driving cars

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O2 and the European Space Agency have teamed up to collaborate on a four-year trial programme to research new connectivity solutions for connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs).

The initiative, Project Darwin, will test solutions including 5G and satellite communications.

Based in the Harwell Science and Innovation Campus in Oxfordshire, 'Project Darwin' will bring together Oxford and Glasgow Universities, Spanish satellite operator Hispasat, start-ups specialised in self-driving mobility solutions and Darwin Innovation Group Oxford, which connects terrestrial and satellite communications.

A piece of the puzzle

From July 2019, the high-level design and definition phase will begin at Harwell to explore key connected vehicle and Vehicle-SIM platforms as well as AI neural network integration. From 2020, the team plans to showcase the first 'proof of concepts'.

Derek McManus, COO at O2 said, “Project Darwin is an important piece of the connected and autonomous vehicle puzzle. The research taking place at Harwell during the next four years will be vital in the creation of new transport ecosystems for the UK public and the companies that will offer these services.

"Our approach to this project is part of our wider strategy to collaborate with British businesses, partners and start-ups to unlock the possibilities of 5G for customers and wider UK economy.”

Satellite benefits

Catherine Mealing-Jones, Director of Growth, UK Space Agency, explained, “Autonomous vehicles need robust, high-speed mobile data connections to operate effectively. Building the technology to link them to telecoms satellites will allow you to take your car wherever you want to go, and not just to areas with a strong mobile signal.”

Research last year from O2 found that CAVs are expected to generate unprecedented levels of data – 4Tbytes per hour.

Earlier this year, O2 announced that its 5G network would power autonomous vehicle testing at the Millbrook Proving Ground in Bedfordshire.