The Autonomist

O2 and space agencies to explore 5G and satellite connectivity for cars

O2 and the European Space Agency are to explore the role satellites and the 5G network can play in the future of connected and autonomous cars.

The organisations will be supporting Project Darwin, the ambitious four-year trial designed to pave the way for next generation of connectivity for vehicles.

The scheme aims to test how the technologies can create a new communications industry.

Based in the Harwell Science and Innovation Campus in Oxfordshire, Project Darwin will bring together Oxford University,Glasgow University, Spanish satellite operator Hispasat, start-ups specialised in self-driving mobility solutions and Darwin Innovation Group Oxford – a cutting edge innovation company connecting terrestrial and satellite communications.

Next month the high-level design and definition phase will begin to identify key connected vehicle platforms that will become part of the system architecture..

The project team hopes to be in position to showcase the first proof of concepts next year.

O2 research last year found that connected and autonomous vehicles are expected to generate unprecedented levels of data – 4TB per hour – increasing the urgency of the search for projects such as these to explore next generation connectivity.

As part of Project Darwin, an ARTES ‘Partner Study’ programme will be conducted with UK government support (first phase €2.2m) 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.

‘Project Darwin is an important piece of the connected and autonomous vehicle puzzle,’ said O2’s chief operating officer Derek McManus.

‘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 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.’

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.

‘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.’


Dr Stephan von Delft, University of Glasgow Adam Smith Business School said: ‘Ecosystems that connect data, technologies and users create opportunities for business model innovation.

‘However, new business models for 5G connected ecosystems will not emerge fully formed. Firms must therefore systematically explore, test and adapt new business models as conditions change. Our research aims to support Project Darwin in this process.’

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

  • By Ray Molony, Technology Editor 
    ray.molony@theautonomist.com
    Wednesday 26 June 2019.