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The first commercial lab to test driverless cars using 5G and satellite technologies was recently launched in the UK, in a bid to explore connectivity solutions for connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs).

While 5G could solve many of the technical challenges of driverless cars by providing stronger, faster, and more reliable data signals, satellite tech can augment 5G connectivity, allowing the vehicles to operate safely in areas that suffer from poor mobile phone signal.

The trial project at the “Darwin SatCom Lab” in Oxfordshire is supported by telecommunication provider O2 and the UK government with funding from the UK Space Agency.

In the lab, O2 has already converted two Renault Twizy electric cars into CAVs fitted with lidar sensors, which allow them to be controlled from the lab and driven around the campus, Smart Cities World wrote.

O2 says that 5G reduces the time it takes for information to be sent and received compared to 4G, which is vital to the development of CAV’s, and could slash the current 20 milliseconds of lag to one millisecond – the equivalent of a camera flash.

Using 5G equipment provided by Nokia and geosynchronous communications satellites (GEOs) from satellite operator Hispasat, O2’s team can remotely track each Twizy vehicle, including the position, movement, and speed.

“The UK’s space sector is applying pioneering technologies such as satellite and 5G to essential products and services that will help to transform our everyday lives,” said Amanda Solloway, science minister for the UK government.

“I am incredibly excited that O2’s first of its kind driverless car lab will enable our most innovative businesses to test these technologies and bring us another step closer to putting self-driving vehicles safely on our roads,” Solloway added.

The lab is part of “Project Darwin”, a four-year program sponsored by the UK Space Agency and the European Space Agency to develop next-generation connectivity technology for connected and autonomous vehicles.


 UK launches first commercial driverless testing lab

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