NEWS

20 September 2022

Darwin at the University of Glasgow Future of Transport workshop

Darwin at the University of Glasgow Future of Transport workshop

On 9 September, the University of Glasgow held a workshop about the future of transport. The workshop took place at Inverness Campus, but people were also welcome to take part online.

The discussion focused on the current issues with transport and how these could be improved. In this post, we’ve recapped some of the problems and potential solutions that the workshop touched on.

On 9 September, the University of Glasgow held a workshop about the future of transport. The workshop took place at Inverness Campus, but people were also welcome to take part online. The attendees included representatives from the University of Glasgow, HITRANS, Kingston Business School, Orkney Islands Council, Stagecoach, Navya, Inverness Campus, Inverness Airport, and our own Darwin Innovation Group. By bringing together the perspectives of a number of different stakeholders with an interest in transport, the workshop was able to identify some of the existing issues with transport and discuss how these might be addressed in the future, with the help of technology such as autonomous vehicles. In particular, the discussion focused on transport in the Highlands and Islands area of Scotland, although many of the points that came up in the workshop could also apply to other regions. The travel needs of different groups One topic that came up in the discussion was the fact that, for a transportation system to truly succeed, it must consider the needs of everyone who might use it. The BBC News segment ‘London’s pop-up cycle lanes “stopping disabled travel”’ illustrates how, if not everyone is considered, modifications that benefit one group can make travel more difficult for another. The video looks at how cycle lanes between traffic and the pavement can make it difficult for taxis to pick up or drop off wheelchair users. For another example, the discussion touched on convenient ways to pay for travel. Paying with a contactless card is quick and easy, and it’s already the norm in London, where you cannot pay with cash on a bus. However, paying with a contactless card is not possible for everyone. Children or teenagers may not yet have their own bank account, and tourists may not have a contactless card, or may not have a card that’s accepted on public transport at their destination. It’s important to consider these demographics if you’re trying to make a transport system cashless. London accounts for these cases with the Oyster card, a contactless card specifically for travel on the city’s public transport network, which can be topped up with cash at stations or shops. To ensure our discussion wasn’t restricted to one or two demographics, the workshop invited attendees to think about the travel needs of various sections of society, such as business people, tourists, athletes, disabled travellers and people across the spectrum of age. It can also be helpful to approach transport by thinking about the needs of particular regions, in addition to particular demographics of society. Whatever demographics a person may belong to, they may end up living in an area that has no easy access to public transport, so it’s important to link these isolated areas to the transport network. A well-placed change to the transport system can benefit the entire community. The travel issues that exist Rural areas are often highly dependent on cars, which can cause a number of problems: Cars have a larger impact on the environment than higher-capacity public transport. Because many cars are required to transport the same number of people as, for example, a bus or train, cars contribute to congestion on the road, wasting time and worsening the impact of vehicles on the environment. Not everyone can drive. In particular, young people, elderly people, people who can’t afford a car and people with certain disabilities may find themselves without transport options, leading to isolation and difficulty in accessing essential services. To reduce dependency on cars, we need to look at how public transport can be made more accessible for everyone. The workshop discussion touched on various issues that currently exist in transportation, in the Highlands and Islands and elsewhere, and on how these might be addressed. For example: In areas like the Highlands and Islands, large regions with low population density, it can be difficult to access work. In addition to improving public transport networks, remote working can be a valuable tool here, reducing the need to travel at all. Virtual reality and high-definition video calls could also help reduce the need to travel in some other cases, for example by enabling people to consult doctors remotely. Much of the area lacks network coverage, which can be a particular issue when combined with the above point. If people need to travel long distances to access work, they may also want an internet connection to be able to get things done or entertain themselves on the journey. For example, a person commuting from Lairg to Inverness and back will spend three hours a day on trains, and a reliable connection could help them to make more use of that time. Reliable connections are also essential for home working. This is an area of interest for us at Darwin Innovation Group. By enabling vehicles or devices to switch seamlessly between mobile and satellite networks, we aim to make it possible to connect to the internet even in rural areas or moving vehicles. To learn more, take a look at our page on 5G and satellite communications. For some travellers, it can be difficult to access transport hubs on foot. Door-to-door transport services could be helpful in these cases. In the future, flexible, accessible door-to-door or door-to-station public transport – perhaps picking up multiple people travelling to the same destination – could help to reduce reliance on low-occupancy taxis, meaning the same goal could be achieved with fewer vehicles and lower emissions. Autonomous shuttles could help here: mid-sized autonomous vehicles that, in the future, could potentially receive requests from passengers and automatically calculate the most efficient route to pick people up. This could become more important in the cost of living crisis, as driving becomes harder to afford and people become less able to rely on friends or family to give them a lift. Bus driver shortages are an issue across the UK. This could be addressed with a combination of improved pay and conditions, to attract more bus drivers, and autonomous buses, which could mean that services can run with fewer drivers. Access to clear information about public transport is important, particularly for tourists, who may not be familiar with the local public transport system. No matter how well-connected a public transport network is, people will only use it if they understand it. Without clear information about how to get where they need to go on public transport or what sort of ticket they need, travellers may choose the less environmentally friendly option of a taxi. At the moment, when you arrive in another country, your mobile provider will often send you a text with information about roaming charges. Perhaps something similar could be done for transportation: when your phone detects that you’ve arrived in a new area, it could send you a message with a link to clear information about local public transport, ideally in the language the phone is set to. Of course, this is a solution that relies on reliable network coverage, reinforcing the importance of having connectivity available everywhere. One thing that’s important to remember as transportation becomes more automated is that, when travellers want information, they’d often like the option to speak to a human. On an autonomous vehicle, there’s no driver to speak to. This could perhaps be addressed with, for example, a button aboard the vehicle, which could connect passengers to a help service. Crucially, public transport must be widespread and affordable. It’s essential for people to be able to access shops, schools, work and medical services. By making it easier for them to reach their destination on public transport, we can reduce reliance on cars, making services more accessible and reducing the impact of transportation on the environment. The workshop was an interesting way to explore the ways that public transport could be improved. We’re looking forward to the next one! Darwin Innovation Group is an Oxfordshire-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.
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6 September 2022

Welcoming the Blue Peter winner onto the Darwin Autonomous Shuttle

Welcoming the Blue Peter winner onto the Darwin Autonomous Shuttle

We’re delighted to have welcomed Blue Peter back to Harwell Science and Innovation Campus, after their visit last October!

We’re delighted to have welcomed Blue Peter back to Harwell Science and Innovation Campus, after their visit last October! In the autumn of 2021, Blue Peter held the Awesome Orbit competition for creative contestants between the ages of six and fifteen, supported by the UK Space Agency. Entrants had the task of designing an emblem for a satellite. The winner would have their emblem engraved on an actual satellite, which would then be launched into space: the first ever satellite to be launched from the UK. The winner of the competition was aspiring astronaut Bethany, whose entry was in the 9 to 11 category. You can see the announcement of her victory on Blue Peter here, along with the runners-up. As part of Bethany’s prize, she got to come to Harwell Science and Innovation Campus and ride the Darwin Autonomous Shuttle! We also gave her a copy of our children’s book Darwin the Shuttle Runs Away. Her visit will be featured on Blue Peter soon, so keep an eye out for the broadcast. Bethany’s emblem, ‘Earthsitter’, shows a pair of hands holding the Earth, with a tree growing at the top. It’s designed with the idea of a satellite that could observe the Earth for illegal deforestation, so new trees can be planted where they’re needed. Bethany’s name is engraved on the satellite that bears her emblem, along with the names of twenty-nine competition runners-up. They’ll be orbiting the Earth fifteen times a day for years to come. It’s great to see Blue Peter encouraging an early interest in satellites and self-driving cars. Who knows: maybe some of the Awesome Orbit competition entrants will end up working with us! Darwin Innovation Group is an Oxfordshire-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.
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31 August 2022

Upcoming workshop: CAVs in transport, 9 September 2022

Upcoming workshop: CAVs in transport, 9 September 2022

We’re looking forward to the University of Glasgow’s workshop about the future of autonomous vehicles in transport on 9 September! It can be attended both in person and online.

We’re looking forward to the University of Glasgow’s workshop about the future of autonomous vehicles in transport on 9 September! It can be attended both in person and online. We have a long-standing partnership with the University of Glasgow, and we appreciate all the support we’ve received from the university as we’ve worked to innovate in the fields of communications and transport. In our collaboration, we aim to create community engagement, allowing wider communities to have their say on the topic of CAVs as part of mainstream transportation. The upcoming CAV workshop reflects these goals. The University of Glasgow is holding this workshop in collaboration with ESRC and HITRANS at Inverness Campus, allowing stakeholders from the transport sector in the Highlands and Islands region of Scotland to discuss how autonomous vehicles will reshape the sector and create new opportunities. The workshop takes place on Friday 9 September 2022, from 1pm to 4pm BST. Interested parties can attend either in person at Inverness Campus or online via Zoom. If you’d like to join, take a look at this flyer, which includes details of how to confirm your attendance. Darwin Innovation Group is an Oxfordshire-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.
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23 August 2022

What the Eutelsat Quantum reprogrammable satellite could mean for space

What the Eutelsat Quantum reprogrammable satellite could mean for space

Given our work with satellite connectivity, we’re always interested in new space industry developments at Darwin. We’re excited to see that Eutelsat Quantum, Europe’s first completely reprogrammable commercial satellite, is now in use.

Given our work with satellite connectivity, we’re always interested in new space industry developments at Darwin. We’re excited to see that Eutelsat Quantum, Europe’s first completely reprogrammable commercial satellite, is now in use. Like most communications satellites, Eutelsat Quantum is in geostationary orbit, meaning it remains in the same position above the Earth’s surface as our planet rotates; it’s situated over the Indian Ocean, just east of Somalia. Its eight information-delivering beams can be reshaped and redirected from Earth, and can be sold individually to organisations to be used for various purposes. Six of the beams have already been sold. The satellite’s reprogrammability is a valuable quality, making it highly flexible. As its beams can be moved, Eutelsat Quantum could provide continuous connectivity to a moving vehicle beyond the reach of mobile communications, such as a ship. This is a good illustration of how satellite communications can step in when mobile coverage doesn’t exist, which is an important aspect of our work at Darwin. Satellite reprogrammability also has interesting implications for the future of space. Satellites are expensive to build and launch, and they physically take up space in orbit. This is particularly significant for geostationary satellites, which have to orbit on a very specific path (around the equator at an altitude of 35,786 km). Because of this, reducing the number of satellites required is a positive step; achieving the same goals with fewer satellites saves money, time and resources, and it leaves more space available for essential satellites in the future. Eutelsat Quantum helps to illustrate a future where we can achieve the same things with fewer satellites. Because of its flexibility, it can fulfil the purposes of many different organisations. If one organisation no longer needs its services, that organisation’s beam could be redirected, repurposed and sold to another organisation. This means that Eutelsat Quantum can fulfil a role that, without its reprogrammable nature, might have required many different satellites. Eutelsat Quantum was launched on 30 July 2021, although it’s only just entered commercial use. It was born from a collaboration between satellite operator Eutelsat and satellite manufacturers Airbus and SSTL, with support from the European Space Agency and UK Space Agency. Eutelsat Quantum is expected to remain in active use for fifteen years, after which it will be propelled into a higher ‘graveyard’ orbit, where there are no other active satellites. It’s important to have plans in place for satellite disposal before launch, as satellites that aren’t properly disposed of can fall to Earth or obstruct other satellites. To learn more about this, take a look at our article on what happens to old satellites. Cover image: ESA Darwin Innovation Group is an Oxfordshire-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.
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9 August 2022

The Darwin Autonomous Shuttle on CNN Marketplace Europe

The Darwin Autonomous Shuttle on CNN Marketplace Europe

In the last week of July, the CNN team paid a visit to Harwell Science and Innovation Campus to report on the campus’s work with 5G and satellites. The news segment includes a chat aboard the Darwin Autonomous Shuttle!

In the last week of July, the CNN team paid a visit to Harwell Science and Innovation Campus to report on the campus’s work with 5G and satellites. The news segment includes a chat aboard the Darwin Autonomous Shuttle! You can watch the video here. David Owens talks the host through the Darwin Autonomous Shuttle service, and how, now that self-driving technology exists, real-world examples like the shuttle help to get the public used to sharing the roads with autonomous vehicles. The video also features an interesting interview with Antonio Franchi of the European Space Agency, one of our partners supporting the Darwin Autonomous Shuttle project. Antonio speaks about ubiquitous communications, an important aspect of Darwin’s work. By supplementing 5G networks with satellites, we can achieve far greater communications coverage than we can with 5G alone. Darwin’s technology makes it possible to switch seamlessly between 5G and satellite connections, depending on what networks are available. To learn more about why this matters, take a look at our article ‘Why combine terrestrial and satellite communications?’ Darwin Innovation Group is an Oxfordshire-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.
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