Autonomous shuttle commences trial at Harwell

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An autonomous shuttle controlled by 5G and satellite connectivity will transport members of the public around the Harwell Science and Innovation Campus in Oxfordshire

Aviva and Darwin Innovation Group have entered into a five-year partnership beginning with a collaboration on an autonomous vehicle trial which started on Monday 28 November.

Darwin is trialling the autonomous shuttle at the Harwell Science and Innovation Campus in Oxfordshire. Created by Navya, this vehicle, controlled by 5G and satellite connectivity, will be able to pick passengers up, transport them around the campus and drop them off at their destination, all without the involvement of a human driver. A second shuttle is expected to be added in the second year of operation.

The electric shuttles will operate 24/7, which will allow the capture of data in different light and weather conditions, and will transmit this data via 5G and satellite channels. The vehicles will have level 4 autonomy, under SAE International’s levels of driving automation, and do not have a steering wheel.

Darwin has carefully mapped out the campus and provided the shuttles with all the information they will need to navigate the area. The shuttles will be able to communicate with each other, and will be well equipped with sensors so they can navigate without obstructing each other and can react to any unexpected obstacles.

Supporters believe that autonomous vehicles could dramatically improve road safety and transform the UK’s mobility system. However, as the technology within vehicles evolves and the reality of having fully autonomous vehicles on the roads becomes closer, insurers need to be able to assess potential new risks and vehicle uses when underwriting such vehicles. Aviva believes that being involved in the testing and development phases of this trial means it will be well placed to react to the increasing automation of vehicles. The trial aims to showcase the application of connected autonomous vehicles and allow the company to build its first comprehensive insurance model for this type of vehicle, which will evolve as the trial progresses.

The trial builds on the October 2020 launch by O2 and Darwin Innovation Group of the Darwin SatCom Lab, the UK’s first commercial laboratory for 5G and satellite communications, situated at the Harwell Science and Innovation Campus. The laboratory enables companies like Aviva to explore next-generation connectivity solutions for connected and autonomous vehicles using both 5G and satellite communications.

Nick Amin, Chief Operating Officer at Aviva, said: “With this trial, we’re able to be there right from the start of the real-life application of autonomous vehicles operating on public roads, which will change not only our relationship with these vehicles but, more fundamentally, how we insure them. Autonomous vehicles could change the face of motor insurance within a decade. Through having access to the data from this trial, we can understand today the kinds of things we’ll have to consider in the future to keep passengers, pedestrians and all other road users safe when driverless technology hits public roads.”

Daniela Petrovic, Delivery Director at Darwin, said: “For any emergent market to be a success, we need to create an ecosystem of companies who share a vision for innovation and are willing to expand their core competency into something new. Emergent markets are usually found at the intersection of industries, and that is why, for the CAV ecosystem to work, we must gather actors from multiple industries to work together. The Darwin team are delighted to have Aviva as a partner in this ecosystem, jointly creating new insurance models and enabling CAVs to become mainstream in the UK market.”

The electric shuttles, which do not have a steering wheel, will operate 24/7 to capture data in different light and weather conditions. DARWIN/NAVYA