Mobile communications giant O2 announced this week that it is joining forces with the UK Space Agency to develop next generation technology needed for driverless cars – and the idea was born through a meeting of minds at d’Overbroeck’s Careers Evening.
At d’Overbroeck’s we plan our annual Careers and Connections Evening to give students the opportunity to network with volunteer representatives from a range of professions and industries. There are frequently contacts made at this event which lead students into work experience, to reconsider their Higher Education options or to revise ideas for their research project. Sometimes, the volunteers themselves will make connections between each other and in 2017 such a meeting led to the development of a 5G driverless car which is being launched at Harwell Science and Innovation campus this week.
The idea for the Darwin programme, which has been developed at the Harwell Campus near Oxford, was born out of a meeting at d’Overbroeck’s between Technology Innovation Consultant Daniela Petrovic and Philip Haines who works for the European Space Agency on business intelligence and research. At our 2017 careers event, they were stationed on adjacent tables and in between talking with students and advising on higher education and career paths in their respective industries, Daniela and Philip struck up a conversation and quickly discovered that their areas of research overlapped. They kept in touch and met again at the Careers and Connections Evening in 2018 where they resolved to take the project forward.
Philip Haines says of his involvement with d’Overbroeck’s, “Careers and Connections is a fabulous evening for me. I represent ‘science’, not just the European Space Agency for whom I work, and this year from the moment the event opened until ten minutes before it closed I had a queue of people waiting to talk to me. I’m equally impressed by both the intelligent, polite, well spoken teenagers who know that they should introduce themselves and shake hands when we meet and by all the science departments (particularly Phyics and Maths) who clearly enthuse their students with a true love of crucial subjects that are unfortunately declining in popularity elsewhere.”
“The biggest achievement of this project is that we connected previously not connected and competing industries”, explains Daniela Petrovic. “This is the first joined connectivity project allowing seamless communication over both networks and applied to autonomous vehicles. I admire d’Overbroeck’s efforts to provide its students with industry insights from the experts in their areas. That is a great advantage not only for students but for the professionals as well who get the chance to hear young people’s interests and views, and help shape the future with their insights in mind.”
As a thank you to the school that introduced them, the project has included d’Overbroeck’s logo on the prototype car (see image).
The Darwin programme aims to test seamless highspeed data connections using 5G and satellites. Next generation telecoms satellites will ensure that vehicles stay connected outside of towns and cities which typically have good mobile signals. Although this innovation stems from cutting edge technology, it is not only a technological leap, it means change of people’s lifestyle and habits. Therefore, for such an innovation to be created the project needs multidisciplinary thinkers – not only people who are technology savvy such as computer scientists, AI developers or engineers but also designers, philosophers, psychologists, lawyers.
Connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs) will transform travel with safer, smoother and smarter road journeys through high levels of automation facilitated by being able to communicate with other vehicles and to road infrastructure around them. However, they require robust and seamless high-speed data connections to operate their complex systems effectively.
O2 research shows that CAVs are expected to generate unprecedented levels of data – 4TB per hour – highlighting the need for next generation connectivity.