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14th May 2017


O2 is conducting a series of autonomous car trials on public roads

The UK mobile network is working with an Oxford-based Artificial Intelligence company as part of the “DRIVEN” consortium, which plans to deploy a fleet of six inter-communicating autonomous vehicles between Oxford and London.

This 30-month project commenced in April 2017, having been bolstered by an £8.6 million government grant. It will culminate in an end-to-end Level 4 autonomous journey between the two aforementioned UK cities.

Level 4 autonomy means that the cars will perform all essential driving functions and monitoring tasks themselves without any passengers on board. No trial of this complexity has been attempted anywhere in the world at the time of writing.

Smart cars

One of the key issues that the DRIVEN consortium trial will address is the necessary communication and data sharing between connected vehicles, as well as that between the vehicles and external sources such as traffic control systems. This is where O2 comes in, with the mobile operator lending its network to the project in order to transmit the required data.

An O2 spokesperson said: “O2 believes developments in areas including secure data transfer will be the key to future developments in mobility, including congestion relief, car sharing and other innovative schemes. O2 also has a strong track record in machine to machine communication and particularly in driverless cars, including being a core partner of the Greenwich Automated Transport Environment (GATEway) project which has seen driverless vehicles travelling autonomously near The O2 in London.”

Whilst the trials will be using existing mobile network technology, it’s widely felt that 5G will play a vital role in the widespread adoption of autonomous cars over the coming years. 5G’s predicted high data speeds, increased reliability, and low latency will allow self-driving cars to respond in real time to emerging traffic conditions, thus reducing congestion and automobile accidents significantly.