European Space Agency and O2 partner on key CAV developments

26 June 2019

25 June 2019

Mobile phone provider O2 and the European Space Agency (ESA) will be supporting a new UK trial programme designed to pave the way for next-generation connectivity solutions for connected and autonomous vehicle (CAVs).

Project Darwin aims to test new technology and end-to-end connectivity solutions, including 5G and satellite communications, to ultimately create a new CAV industry vertical.

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 – an innovation company connecting terrestrial and satellite communications.

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 project hopes to be in a position to showcase the first proof of concepts.

O2 research last year found that CAVs are expected to generate unprecedented levels of data – 4TB per hour – highlighting the need for projects such as these to explore next-generation connectivity solutions.

Space age

As part of Project Darwin, an ARTES (the European Space Agency’s long-running, large-scale programme to support the development of advanced satellite communication products and services) ′Partner Study’ programme will be conducted with support from the UK Government to help define all the different elements needed to deliver the larger programme. The future of mobility is one of the UK Government’s Industrial Strategy Grand Challenges, and the UK Space Agency is working closely with Darwin and Telefonica to support this ambition in the UK.

′Our world-beating space and auto industries have a proven track record in driving forward pioneering research, while the UK’s satellite services are constantly enhancing services such as the quality of our communications, healthcare and environmental monitoring,’ said business secretary Greg Clark.

′This new partnership between Government and industry will build on our world-leading reputation in the development and manufacture of satellites even further, to bring together two of the UK’s great strengths – automotive and space. Putting us at the forefront of the next generation of self-driving cars of tomorrow, a key ambition in our modern Industrial Strategy,’ Clark added.

Fast data

Catherine Mealing-Jones, director of growth, UK Space Agency, commented: ′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.

′The future of mobility is one of the UK government’s Industrial Strategy Grand Challenges, and this project will help ensure this critical technology is developed in Harwell, bringing expertise, jobs and growth to the UK,’ Mealing-Jones added.

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