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Project Darwin: Creating the transport system of the future

By Brendan O’Reilly, CTO, O2

I’m excited to share that we, along with the European Space Agency, will be supporting ‘Project Darwin’ – a four-year trial programme designed to pave the way for next generation connectivity solutions for connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs).

The project will bring together Oxford and Glasgow Universities, Spanish satellite operator Hispasat, start-ups specialised in self-driving mobility solutions and Darwin Innovation Group Oxford, to test new technology and end-to-end connectivity solutions. This includes testing 5G and satellite communications to create a new CAV industry vertical.

Our research has found that CAVs are expected to generate unprecedented levels of data – up to 4TB per hour. Currently, we just don’t have the infrastructure in place to support all this data. Projects like Darwin are essential to explore next generation connectivity solutions and facilitate the creation of new business models.

A key reason for testing 5G for CAVs is its incredible low latency capabilities.

For context, the fastest rate humans appear to be able to process incoming visual stimuli is around 13ms (milliseconds). But reaction time is much higher. Even fighter pilots and Formula 1 drivers have a reaction time of around 100ms to 120ms. Meanwhile, 5G promises latency as low as 1ms.

Think about that in the context of 5G supporting Connected and Autonomous vehicles and how much quicker information can be transmitted.

Project Darwin isn’t the only way we’re testing 5G. We’re involved in a number of other exciting projects, including:

  • Millbrook Proving Ground – Our 5G network will be powering the CAV testing at Millbrook. The test bed aims to provide developers of CAVs access to 5G testing capabilities, simulating the effects of high speed mobility on transport such as cars and trains to assess 5G handover, capacity and download capabilities of up to 1Gbps for consumer applications.
  • Midlands Future Mobility – Working with the Wireless Infrastructure Group, we’ll be helping provide connectivity along a 50-mile route that runs through Birmingham and Coventry to test autonomous vehicles.
  • Worcestershire Local Enterprise Partnership – We’re part of a consortium along with leading manufacturers like Worcester Bosch and Yamazaki Mazak to test 5G for industrial application. Thanks to 5G, engineers at Mazak will now be able to share live HD video with a specialist in another location and receive instructions via augmented reality in real-time.

Ahead of our 5G rollout later this year, we’re also trialling 5G in our own testbeds. At the O2, for example, we’re testing our 3.4GHz spectrum for consumer and business application. We’re also creating 5G innovation spaces across the UK, including in our Wayra accelerator hubs. The spaces provide 5G test environments for businesses of all sizes.

Mobile will continue to be one of the UK’s most powerful opportunities to strengthen our economy, bolster the capability of British businesses and improve the lives of British citizens. 5G is the next stepping stone on that journey.

Interested in exploring the impact that 5G could have on your business? Get in touch.

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