Space-enabled connectivity steers self-driving cars

Self-driving vehicles may get around on their own, but they can only do so by being connected. Instead of relying on a driver’s eyes and instincts, self-driving vehicles know where they are, where they’re going and what is in their way based on data from cameras and sensors, and a constant connection to communication networks.

The Darwin Autonomous Shuttle has been travelling around Harwell Science and Innovation Campus since November 2021, taking more than 1400 staff, contractors and visitors where they need to be through a combination of 4G, 5G and satellite connectivity. This allows the shuttle bus to remain constantly connected and tracked as it follows a four-kilometre route around Harwell Campus, operating six hours every working day and navigating roundabouts, zebra crossings, junctions, public roads and changing traffic. As the shuttle uses Darwin’s technology to connect seamlessly to the strongest network at any moment, it maintains a constant connection even if one network is unavailable.

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