O2 5G gears up to power driverless cars in London

UK telco reveals 5G network support for trials of driverless vehicles and smart transport systems on the streets of London

Aiming to be one of the first off the grid in the race to establish the 5G use case of autonomous transportation in the UK, O2 has announced that it is to use its recently launched 5G network to test driverless vehicles and smart transport systems on the streets of London.

O2’s 3.4GHz 5G-ready spectrum will see use in allowing car manufacturers, self-driving technology companies, startups and public organisations to road-test driverless vehicles in a real-world environment.

The vehicles are being tested by the Smart Mobility Living Lab, working from Greenwich and the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Stratford. The lab brings together experts from TRL, DG Cities, Cisco and Loughborough University, and the facility is claimed to be the most advanced driverless testbed in the world.

With its complex road layouts and dense population, London is regarded as the ultimate UK test environment for driverless cars, which are being tested on both public and private roads in the capital. O2 research has predicted that as well as enabling driverless automation, a 5G-based road management system could reduce the time motorists spend stuck in traffic by 10%, save the economy £880m a year, and reduce CO2 emissions by 370,000 tonnes a year.

TRL CEO Paul Campion said: “We are excited to be working with the teams at the Smart Mobility Living Lab, which is driving forward our understanding of how this next-generation technology will fundamentally change the fabric of the cities in which we live and work, as well as creating entirely new ways to travel.

“5G is a technology that supports a successful roll-out of self-driving cars in the UK. Smart Mobility Living Lab research shows that over a third of industry leaders from the transport, technology and automotive industries think investment in strengthening the UK’s digital infrastructure is a key step for making self-driving cars commercially available in the UK.”

O2’s support for the autonomous transport project comes as it announced its third-quarter 2019 results. For the three-month period ended 30 September 2019, O2 reported revenues of £1.59bn, up 4.1% year on year, driven mainly by tariff structures, higher handset revenues, its smart metering implementation programme and increased mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) revenues.

Operating income before depreciation and amortization (OIBDA) in the quarter was £489m, up 5.7% on the equivalent period in 2018. During the quarter, the company’s capital expenditure was £218m, which O2 said reflected continued investment in network capacity, customer experience and laying the foundations for 5G.

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