Telefónica to develop satellite-connected autonomous vehicles in UK trial

25 June 2019 | Alan Burkitt-Gray

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Telefónica’s O2 UK is working with space agencies and universities to develop end-to-end connectivity for autonomous vehicles using satellites and 5G mobile.

The company said it is supporting a four-year internet of things (IoT) programme to develop solutions for connected and autonomous vehicles.

Called Project Darwin, the trials will be based at the Harwell Science and Innovation (pictured) in the UK.

Derek McManus, COO of O2 UK, said: “Project Darwin is an important piece of the connected and autonomous vehicle puzzle.” He said the research will be “vital in the creation of new transport ecosystems”.

Partners in the research are the European Space Agency, UK Space Agency, Glasgow and Oxford universities, and Spanish satellite operator Hispasat, as well as start-ups specialised in self-driving mobility solutions.

Catherine Mealing-Jones, director of growth at the UK Space Agency, said: “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.”

O2 research last year found that connected and autonomous vehicles are expected to generate data at the rate of 4TB an hour, highlighting the need for projects such as these to explore next generation connectivity solutions.

The team aims to begin the high-level design and definition phase for Project Darwin next month, exploring connected vehicle and vehicle-SIM platforms as well as AI neural network integration. They hope for proofs of concepts to begin in 2020.