NEWS

12 January 2021

The Darwin Advent Wellbeing Challenge

The Darwin Advent Wellbeing Challenge

In these times, it’s important to remember the good things that we have in our lives. Most of us can still enjoy the simple pleasure of taking a walk. It feels great to get some fresh air and exercise, to explore our surroundings and see what new things we can discover.

In December, Darwin offered its team a playful challenge: could we walk a total of one million steps over the Advent period?

In these times, it’s important to remember the good things that we have in our lives. Most of us can still enjoy the simple pleasure of taking a walk. It feels great to get some fresh air and exercise, to explore our surroundings and see what new things we can discover. In December, Darwin offered its team a playful challenge: could we walk a total of one million steps over the Advent period? If we reached the goal, Darwin would honour our achievement by planting 24 trees at Harwell campus: one for each day of the challenge. Just to be clear, that’s one million steps in total, rather than one million steps per person. Some people threw themselves so enthusiastically into the challenge that it seemed like they were trying to reach the million on their own, though. In particular, we have to applaud Steve and Ram, our top walkers. We had 24 days to fulfil the challenge, but in the end we hit the target on day 21. It’s a fantastic achievement, and hopefully one that everyone enjoyed contributing to! Here’s a graph of the steps per day, with thanks to Mihailo for his statistical work. We walk a lot more on Saturdays than on Wednesdays, it seems. This just runs up to the day we reached a million steps, but people were still sending Mihailo step counts even after we met the goal! Congratulations to the Darwin team! The trees we plant as a result will contribute towards the steps we’re taking to offset our carbon dioxide emissions, and hopefully they’ll bring pleasure to people at Harwell for years to come. There’s a space at Harwell campus that’s been designated for the Darwin grove, and we’ll be planting the 24 trees in the first week of March. In the meantime, please enjoy a few more of Daniela’s photographs from her gorgeous winter walks in Oxford! Pablo the dog is the real star here.     Darwin Innovation Group is an Oxfordshire-based R&D company focusing on autonomous vehicles and communications, both terrestrial and satellite. If you’d like to keep up with our articles, you can follow us on LinkedIn or Twitter. If you’re interested in working with us, take a look at our careers page.
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18 December 2020

Season’s greetings from Darwin

Season’s greetings from Darwin

It’s been a strange, difficult year, and many of us will be glad to leave it behind. At the same time, it’s been a year that’s demonstrated the power of research and development.

Season’s greetings from Darwin! It’s been a strange, difficult year, and many of us will be glad to leave it behind. At the same time, it’s been a year that’s demonstrated the power of research and development. In 2020, we’ve seen unprecedented achievements in the quick development of vaccines. These achievements were made because people were willing to devote their skills and effort to research and testing, in the heartfelt belief that we can make the future better than today. This is why Darwin exists. Fully autonomous vehicles, greener transport, drones that can deliver life-saving supplies in a matter of minutes: there’s so much incredible technology within our grasp, if we can just reach a little further. We’re working hard to get us there. See you in 2021. Let’s make it a better year. Darwin Innovation Group is an Oxfordshire-based R&D company focusing on autonomous vehicles and communications, both terrestrial and satellite. If you’d like to keep up with our articles, you can follow us on LinkedIn or Twitter. If you’re interested in working with us, take a look at our careers page.
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15 December 2020

RFI: CAV Operating Routes Risk Assessment

RFI: CAV Operating Routes Risk Assessment

Many thanks to those who responded to this RFI! We’ve chosen TRL’s submission as our preferred solution.

Update, 3 February 2021: Many thanks to those who responded to this RFI! We've chosen TRL's submission as our preferred solution. At Darwin, we are opening a call for responses to our request for information (RFI) on Harwell Campus Autonomous Shuttle Operating Routes risk assessment. We are looking for risk and safety assessments of two routes on the Harwell Science and Innovation Campus to be done during February 2021. The address of the campus is: Harwell Science and Innovation Campus, Didcot, OX11 0QX. The two routes are shown in the below picture (orange and blue). Harwell Campus CAV routes mapThe vehicle that will operate on these two routes will be an autonomous shuttle produced by Navya. The vehicle will transport up to 15 people at any one time and is envisaged to operate 24/7. The vehicle will operate alternating between the orange and blue routes, with the central station being the ESA building. All other stops will be public bus stops on the two routes. The vehicle will be charged at the ESA car park and stored in the STFC area. The vehicle is autonomous (Level 4), with a safety operator in the vehicle at all times. What we are looking for in your response to this RFI: Risk and safety assessment of the shown routes. What evidence can you provide to demonstrate the experience your company has with this type of activity? What are the activities you would perform? What regulatory approvals would you advise us to seek? Over what period of time would you need to perform the activity? What is the estimated cost of your work? Additional video imaging is available here, showing both drone and in-car surveys. The videos show: Autonomous shuttle route 1 (orange): car view and drone view. Autonomous shuttle route 2 (blue): car view and drone view. Drone corridor: drone view. STFC/RAL entrance: car view. ESA charging point: car view. If you intend to submit a response, ideally please let us know by Friday 18 December 2020 so we can allocate appropriate time for reviewers based on the number of responses we receive. Should it be required, we are offering a one-hour consultation session with our technical team to answer any questions you may have before the submission. Consultation sessions will be available from 11 January to 14 January. Please get in touch if you would like to schedule a consultation session, specifying the date and time you are requesting. Full RFI responses are requested by no later than 15 January 2021. Our intention is to announce the results by 29 January 2021. Darwin Innovation Group is an Oxfordshire-based R&D company focusing on autonomous vehicles and communications, both terrestrial and satellite. If you’d like to keep up with our articles, you can follow us on LinkedIn or Twitter. If you’re interested in working with us, take a look at our careers page.
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10 December 2020

Last mile delivery and Darwin

Last mile delivery and Darwin

Last mile delivery is one of the most difficult, expensive areas of goods transportation. Today we’re taking a look at some of the problems with last mile delivery, and at how Darwin’s research is helping to solve those problems.

Last mile delivery is one of the most difficult, expensive areas of goods transportation. Today we’re taking a look at some of the problems with last mile delivery, and at how Darwin’s research is helping to solve those problems. What is last mile delivery? Last mile delivery refers to the final journey goods make to the customer, from, for example, a warehouse or fulfilment centre. It’s the last leg of transportation, if not literally the last mile. What are the challenges of last mile delivery? The last mile is the least efficient part of a supply chain and can take up a large proportion of total transportation costs. To some extent, you might expect a loss of efficiency when you reach the stage of delivering to the customer. After all, you could have the parts for a hundred laptops delivered to the point of assembly in only a few shipments. If a hundred different customers each order a laptop, though, you then have to deliver to a hundred different destinations. Unfortunately, the customer isn’t always willing to wait. Accenture’s interesting 2018 publication ‘How could last mile delivery evolve to sustainably meet customer expectations?’ notes that 27% of US shoppers have backed out of an online order because same-day delivery wasn’t an option. Accenture’s publication also mentions that ‘Free delivery consistently ranks as the most important delivery consideration for online purchases, with fast delivery coming second’. In other words, although customers want fast delivery, they’re reluctant to pay more for it. This all adds up to a crucial question: how can we deliver quickly while keeping costs down? What can Darwin do about the last mile problem? We can’t move everyone on the planet into one house together. The problem of having to deliver to multiple addresses will always exist. So what can Darwin do to make last mile delivery more efficient? For one thing, we can track a vehicle’s carbon dioxide emissions, and we can use the information we gain from tracking to find more fuel-efficient routes. To learn more about this, take a look at our post on reducing CO2 emissions. We’re also researching ways we can use electric autonomous vehicles to carry out last mile delivery. If goods are delivered by manually driven vehicles, we’re limited in how many deliveries we can make simultaneously by the number of drivers available. Automated last mile delivery wouldn’t have that problem; the only restriction would be the number of vehicles. Drones have a lot of potential for last mile delivery. Their high battery consumption means they have limited range – a 30-minute flight time is considered impressive for a drone – but we can solve this problem by using autonomous vehicles to bring them into range of the delivery address. Part of the appeal of drones is that they can make quick deliveries to places that aren’t easily accessed by road. Unfortunately, these inaccessible places often have poor connectivity, making it harder to operate drones. This is part of the reason Darwin’s work to create global connectivity, blending terrestrial and satellite communications, is so important. Last mile delivery is a tricky area, but the research Darwin is doing will help to make deliveries quicker, simpler and cheaper, benefiting both sellers and consumers. Darwin Innovation Group is an Oxfordshire-based R&D company focusing on autonomous vehicles and communications, both terrestrial and satellite. If you’d like to keep up with our articles, you can follow us on LinkedIn or Twitter. If you’re interested in working with us, take a look at our careers page.
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24 November 2020

CO2 emissions reduction and the ways Darwin will help

CO2 emissions reduction and the ways Darwin will help

It’s worth giving some thought to the routes we take when we’re driving. Navigation systems will usually recommend the quickest route to your destination, and you might expect the quickest route to produce the least carbon dioxide. After all, if you’re on the road for less time, aren’t you using less fuel?

Unfortunately, that’s not always the case.

It’s worth giving some thought to the routes we take when we’re driving. Navigation systems will usually recommend the quickest route to your destination, and you might expect the quickest route to produce the least carbon dioxide. After all, if you’re on the road for less time, aren’t you using less fuel? Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. In the spring of 2020, Neste, HERE technologies, PTV Group and VTT collaborated on a small experiment in the Helsinki area to see whether navigation systems recommended the ‘most CO2-friendly route’. The gist of the experiment was this: A car took three different routes from point A to point B: the route suggested by the navigation system, and two other routes. The car repeated the journeys to make sure the results were accurate, as, for example, unusually heavy traffic on one route could throw off the results. The experiment was done 13 times with different starting points and destinations, each time driving three different routes from point A to point B (so 39 routes were driven in total). The Finnish technical research centre VTT analysed the data from each journey. In a third of the cases, the navigation system’s recommended route wasn’t the most environmentally friendly. The most fuel-efficient route tended to be the shortest, which wasn’t necessarily the fastest. You can find Neste’s writeup here. You might have caught that 13 isn’t a large sample size, and it’s hard to draw firm conclusions from small experiments. Still, it’s interesting that such a large proportion of the recommended routes weren’t the most fuel-efficient even in a small sample. There’s clearly room for more work to be done on finding the most environmentally friendly driving routes possible, and that’s one of the areas Darwin is interested in. The Darwin SatCom Lab has been experimenting with using LiDAR sensors to track the carbon dioxide output of its connected autonomous vehicles (CAVs). By switching seamlessly between satellite and 5G, Darwin can remain constantly connected to its vehicles and receive data on the carbon footprint of the fleet in real time. O2, which aims to become net zero carbon by 2025, is supporting this research. Gathering clear, accurate information on the fuel efficiency of routes is essential if we want to train navigation systems to cut down on CO2 emissions. A human driver can choose to take a more environmentally friendly route than the one that navigation software recommends, but it’s obviously harder for a fully autonomous vehicle to overrule the recommended route. If navigation software is provided with information about emissions, and if it’s taught to value the environment as well as speed, it’ll result in lower CO2 emissions for both human drivers and CAVs. Darwin’s ability to track carbon dioxide emissions is something delivery companies can also make use of. We can measure the emissions of all the vehicles in a fleet based on the vehicle’s age, the weight of the load, the type of fuel and so on. We’ll also look at the satellite imagery of the route each vehicle takes, so we can put the data in context and take, for example, carbon capture from trees into account. With all this knowledge, we can give informed advice on how the fleet can reduce its carbon footprint. In some cases, it may be possible to replace a diesel or petrol fleet with electric vehicles, based on the availability of charging points. We can give advice on that as well. In the fight against climate change, the changes that individuals or companies make can add up to make a real difference. We want to help identify and make those changes. Darwin Innovation Group is an Oxfordshire-based R&D company focusing on autonomous vehicles and communications, both terrestrial and satellite. If you’d like to keep up with our articles, you can follow us on LinkedIn or Twitter. If you’re interested in working with us, take a look at our careers page.
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