UK starts testing private 5G for autonomous vehicles at Millbrook proving ground
The AutoAir consortium has demonstrated the first application of independently operated 5G for connected and autonomous vehicles in the UK.
The showcase took place at the Millbrook proving ground in the UK, where the AutoAir consortium, lead by Florida-based Airspan Networks and backed by £4.1 million grant from the UK government’s UK5G Innovation Network, has a residency for testing 5G infrastructure for connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs).
The Milbrook track has been equipped with 77 base stations, including 23 ‘small cell’ base stations, to enable 5G-like data speeds between vehicles on the track. At the demo-day, yesterday (February 12), live 4K video was streamed at 1Gbps from various vehicles back to a bus carrying partners and press.
The vehicles, including a number of cars and emergency vehicles, were travelling at various speeds around the Milbrook circuit. LED screens in the bus showed the live connectivity speeds of these other vehicles.
The Milbrook setup is being made available to CAV developers as a low latency, wide-area wireless infrastructure for validating and testing levels three-to-five autonomous vehicles, requiring high speed and real-time connectivity, in a secure environment with a private and tuneable mobile network.
Developers can simulate weak and strong cell signal and understand the impact of hills and other terrain in a single location, while having access to all data generated during testing, said AutoAir. They can also create virtual events using augmented and virtual reality for vehicles on track, allowing them safely to test complex scenarios and edge cases.
“The 5G-enabled infrastructure makes it possible to monitor, gather and distribute vehicle test data such as video, telematics, tracking and control in real time. Applications include rail, infotainment, cyber security, simulation, network location trials and industrial IoT,” it said in a statement.
The Milbrook site makes use of 4G and 5G small cells that operate on a ‘neutral host’ basis. The infrastructure can be used simultaneously by multiple public and private mobile operators, making the network more economical, said AutoAir.
Airspan Networks described the project as “one of the most ambitious 5G testbeds in the world”.
Paul Senior, the company’s chief strategy officer, commented: “AutoAir is directly tackling the key 5G technology and system design challenges that CAVs create. The project has now completed the deployment of a hyper-dense small cell network that delivers ultra-high capacities which enables a range of new CAV use cases to be explored.”
Alex Burns, president of Millbrook, said: “The infrastructure launched today allows our customers to test and develop CAV systems to a quality and level of detail never before realised in this country.”
Brendan O’Reilly, chief technology officer at Telefónica UK, said: “Test networks at sites like Millbrook will be crucial in understanding how 5G will enable the development of connected and autonomous vehicles as well as the associated business and consumer use cases which will transform the automotive sector.”
The AutoAir project began in April 2018. As well as Airspan Networks, the consortium includes Blu WirelessTechnology, McLaren Applied Technologies, the University of Surrey, Dense Air, Real Wireless, Quortus and Celestia Technologies Group.