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5G to fore as Vodafone, Immense join Midlands Future Mobility

UK telco and simulation platform provider join project to accelerate the development of cutting-edge transport technologies

The UK’s largest real-world connected and automated mobility (CAM) testbed, Midlands Future Mobility, has announced Vodafone and Immense as its latest partners in a facility that will trial connected and automated vehicles.

The aim of Midlands Future Mobility, which comprises over 300 miles of West Midlands roads, is to make the UK’s roads safer and allow for more predictable goods delivery and journey times.

The route offers a combination of campus (mini-city), urban, rural and highways roads on which CAM trials can be supported. The route encompasses major city centres (Coventry and Birmingham) and key interchanges (rail, HS2 and Birmingham International Airport). The wide range of route types offers businesses opportunities to trial different technologies, from low-speed “shared space” vehicles through to next-generation advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) and autonomous vehicle technologies.

Midlands Future Mobility is backed by a consortium of organisations, including WMG at the University of Warwick, HORIBA MIRA, AVL, Transport for West Midlands, Costain, Amey, Wireless Infrastructure Group, Coventry University and Highways England. It is funded by business partners and the UK government as part of the wider Zenzic CAM Testbed UK initiative that facilitates and promotes the development of connected and self-driving cars.

As regards the new partners, Vodafone will deploy new 5G macro coverage along the route to strengthen the capability of the facility and, along with the Wireless Infrastructure Group, will ensure that 80% of the Midlands Future Mobility route will have 5G connectivity, making, said the facility, the West Midlands one of the best connected environments in the country. 5G is seen as intrinsic in making autonomous vehicles make sense of their environment and operate without human involvement safely.

The announcement comes just over a week after West Midlands 5G (WM5G), the organisation that delivered the UK’s first region-wide 5G testbed, announced that it had invested £2.4m in seven UK-based consortiums to support the development of new products and services to transform transport across the region.

It also follows Vodafone’s announcement that lecturers at Coventry University will be using its 5G network to teaching seminars using virtual reality (VR), giving students access to interactive remote learning for the first time. Vodafone, Transport for West Midlands and West Midlands 5G have already committed to work in partnership to share information and expertise and develop cutting-edge transport systems and technology using the region’s growing 5G mobile network.

“5G will help revolutionise transport on our roads,” said Anne Sheehan, business director at Vodafone UK. “The ultra-reliability and high bandwidth of 5G will enable new progress for connected and autonomous vehicles, and we are delighted to bring our state-of-the-art 5G network to the Midlands Future Mobility project.”

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Immense will bring large-scale simulations to Midlands Future Mobility, aiming to bridge the gap between operational use cases, such as the local performance of individual vehicles, and strategic use cases, such as the global performance of the transportation system. This, said Midlands Future Mobility, will use the learnings from other work packages to create a fully capable simulation environment that appeals to a range of testbed users.

In collaboration with the other consortium members, Immense will enhance the capability of Midlands Future Mobility’s digital assets to answer a range of questions around the impact of CAM.

Immense’s work is seen as having fundamental applications for regulation and facilitates addressing questions such as how to ensure ‘mobility for good’, how to manage the network of the future, and how to deploy CAM.

“Midlands Future Mobility will accelerate the transition to a world where we can enjoy safe, seamless journeys,” said Robin North, CEO at Immense. “At Immense, we are delighted to join a highly skilled group of consortium partners and play our part to make this vision a reality.”

John Fox, programme director of Midlands Future Mobility at WMG, added: “It is increasingly clear that 5G has a huge role to play in CAM, in addition to more established comms methods, which we’ve already deployed in Midlands Future Mobility. Bringing 5G to a much larger area than first planned with a leading mobile operator in Vodafone, means Midlands Future Mobility will reach and remain at the forefront of 5G development in the UK for years to come.

“I am also delighted to welcome Immense on board. Its advanced multi-actor simulation methods and capability perfectly complement the areas of simulation support for CAM creators that Midlands Future Mobility is already developing.”

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