After launching their partnership just weeks ago, Vodafone and Amazon Web Services (AWS) have said the “unique” combination of multi-access edge compute (MEC) and 5G will enable the creation of novel services and use cases that would not be possible otherwise. Now autonomous vehicle specialist Aurrigo has been revealed as one of the first companies to put this promise to the test.
Based in the heart of the UK’s traditional Midlands automotive home in Coventry, Aurrigo claims to be a leader in the development of “first and last mile” transport solutions. Its self-driving pods are designed to provide mobility within urban areas, shopping malls, airports, university campuses, science parks and other areas that are poorly served by traditional transport providers.
The company has revealed it has been powering its three auto-shuttles – used in the recent trials on roads in Cambridge – with AWS Wavelength and Distributed Edge Computing from Vodafone, which together delivers ultra-low latency and the bandwidth to guarantee the required levels of performance and cyber resilience as the data is not exposed to the public internet.
Cambridge is regarded as an important milestone for the company. The trial – run in partnership with Greater Cambridge Partnership and Smart Cambridge – was the first time in the UK that a company had tested a custom-made autonomous vehicle capable of carrying passengers on a main road surrounded by other traffic, including cars, lorries, vans, bikes and pedestrians.
Able to seat 10 people outside of social distancing restrictions, the three shuttles took passengers from the Madingley Road Park and Ride site to and around the University of Cambridge’s West Campus. The trial was also the first time Aurrigo engineers had been able to tap into Vodafone’s Distributed Edge Computing, which is said to provide significantly better one-way latency of 25ms to 30ms compared with 70ms to 80ms with the normal cloud.
Paired with Vodafone’s 5G network, Aurrigo said it has made an important breakthrough in the driverless vehicle arena and has moved a step closer to removing the human safety supervisor from its pods and shuttles that are being tested and operated in more than five countries across the world. It added that Vodafone’s 4G and 5G networks ensure that the three operating auto-shuttles receive a guaranteed level of connectivity.
“AWS Wavelength, Vodafone 5G and MEC technologies allow us to monitor our autonomous vehicles in real time, via safe and secure communications,” said Simon Brewerton, chief technology officer at Aurrigo. “The assured high-bandwidth connectivity between multiple vehicles, the central control room and our servers, supports critical uses, such as remote supervision and first-person video feeds.
“This is a paradigm shift in reliability, speed and capacity compared with the previous connectivity we had access to, and we look forward to working with the two global leaders to really maximise the potential of their complementary technology on future trials.”
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The Vodafone/AWS network infrastructure partnership sees AWS Wavelength bring AWS compute and storage services to the edge of Vodafone’s network, enabling applications that require increased speeds, massive bandwidth and ultra-low latency, such as industrial automation, video analytics and machine learning inference (artificial intelligence) at the edge and interactive live video streaming.
Vodafone has identified three further intrinsic advantages beyond the speed and latency capabilities of MEC: security, where distributed deployments could minimise the impact of single cyber security incidents; cost, as processing data closer to where it is generated enables better use of bandwidth; and scale, as additional resources can be deployed on-demand as and where needed to increase capacity.
Aurrigo’s landmark Cambridge trial came to a close on 29 June, when it transported its last public passengers. During the project, more than 1,000 people experienced an autonomous journey on a public road shared with other traffic, and feedback will be used to develop future transport systems for the city.
“Low latency and high bandwidth combine to guarantee an exceptional level of performance from our shuttles and a back-end service that is seamless and connected,” Brewerton added. “The power of Vodafone Distributed Edge Computing and AWS Wavelength has been crucial to the success of the Cambridge trial and has given us confidence that we can move forward with more testing and the important next step of operating without a human supervisor.
“This really is a giant leap in ‘secure connectivity’ and we are delighted our project was chosen as the first in the UK to benefit.”