The UK tests the Darwin Innovation Group’s satellite autonomous minibus

The UK tests the Darwin Innovation Group's satellite autonomous minibus

Although different at first glance, space technology and autonomous driving are common topics, both of which require satellite communication to operate. As a result of this merger, the Darwin Innovation Group, a London-based scientific research and development organization, received funding from the European Space Agency (ESA) and the UK Space Agency to test the automated minibus. The rehearsal began Monday (29) at the Harwell Science and Innovation Campus in the southeastern UK state of Oxfordshire.

One of the key features of this autonomous minibus is that instead of relying on terrestrial WiFi like most vehicles of this type, navigation takes place via satellite – powered by 5G networks. Designed by the French company Navya, the vehicle runs on battery and is in circulation using lidar sensors, cameras and ultrasound sensors, additionally equipped with a satellite antenna (GNSS). No steering, but safety controls can be managed by the on-board operator.


Darwin is responsible for maintaining and monitoring service, monitoring the vehicle’s location, and gathering information about operation. Telematic data will be transmitted from the bus in real time using the satellite communication channels of the Spanish operator Hispat.

Uses LiDAR sensors, cameras and ultrasound sensors for electric minibus circulation (Darwin Innovation Center / Publishing)

Use in rural areas

The UK government hopes the self-contained minibus tests could be used for future related activities in remote or rural areas with low or no ground protection. At the same time, help expand traffic across the country without the need for a driver.

“By unleashing the power of space and satellite technology, these new buses will be connected at all times,” explained Conservative UK Science Minister George Freeman. “Our national space strategy promises to put space technology at the heart of our efforts to make the UK a superpower in science and innovation.”

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Keep in mind that this is not the first experience in autonomous passenger transport in Europe. Navya, the company that developed the Darwin minibus in late 2017, Designed a similar vehicle for the city of Freiburg, Switzerland, Was able to safely carry tens of thousands of passengers.

Via Automated evolution

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