Our partnership with the European Space Agency (ESA) has been crucial to our work at Darwin, enabling projects like the Darwin Autonomous Shuttle and our ubiquitous communications technology. ESA’s Directorate for Telecommunications and Integrated Applications (TIA) has now published a white paper about the connected car of the future, and we’re delighted to have played a role in the paper’s creation.
ESA TIA’s automotive white paper, titled ‘The Car of the Future: Connected from Space’, discusses the importance of reliable connectivity for vehicles. Modern vehicles require an internet connection for many purposes, from passenger entertainment to driver assistance features that can improve fuel efficiency and therefore reduce emissions, such as predictive cruise control. As the paper says:
New digital software-based services are designed to make cars a safe, affordable, efficient, environmentally friendly, and enjoyable experience … Connectivity is an essential prerequisite to these transformations, rather than just a nice-to-have secondary capability. Using onboard sensors and internet connectivity, the autonomous car of the future will be able to optimise its own operation and maintenance as well as the experience, convenience and comfort of its passengers. (ESA TIA, ‘The Car of the Future: Connected from Space’, p. 7)
However, modern terrestrial networks alone cannot provide the level of coverage these services require. Although much of the UK is well covered, areas without terrestrial network coverage still exist, and a moving vehicle may pass through one or several of these areas during a journey.
In the UK 8% of geographical areas remain without 4G services, and this level can be much higher in specific regions. Moreover, in many places poor user experience is reported, even if there is coverage. (ESA TIA, ‘The Car of the Future: Connected from Space’, p. 15)
Because of this, the paper looks at how supporting terrestrial communications with satellite networks may be the key to maintaining a stable connection while travelling.
Darwin’s ubiquitous communications demonstration in Cornwall helped to support this point by providing concrete data. Although Cornwall provided challenges for both satellite and terrestrial communications, Darwin’s technology made it possible to remain connected 99% of the time by seamlessly switching networks when necessary. These results are highlighted on pages 16, 17 and 27 of the paper.
You can request a copy of ‘The Car of the Future: Connected from Space’ from this page on the ESA website.
Darwin Innovation Group is a UK-based company that provides services related to autonomous vehicles and communications. If you’re interested in working with us, take a look at our careers page. If you’d like to know how we can help your organisation make use of autonomous vehicles, contact us. You can also follow us on LinkedIn or Twitter.