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Making autonomous vehicles a reality

7 Oct 2022Technology news
3 minute read

In the region of Galicia in north-west Spain, stands the historic city of Santiago de Compostela. A world heritage site, it marks the end of a medieval pilgrimage and is said to be the burial site of the Biblical apostle St. James.

Last month, however, this ancient city was at the forefront of innovation.

Working with the City Council, we showcased two self-driving electric vehicles in public, as part of a project called SMARTiAGO.

Driving innovation with SMARTiAGO
Autonomous vehicle Vodafone

Fitted with sensors and a camera, the SMARTiAGO vehicles are able to recognise what is happening around them, reacting in near real-time. While a communications system allows them to be monitored and to communicate with other structures in the city.

Driving around the city’s main square in the old town, the demonstration showed the driverless car turning corners and moving independently. The next step will be a further test in December where we will see the vehicles delivering goods.

The aim of the project is to highlight how the system can perform various tasks, such as access control to restricted areas, monitoring people and vehicles and managing parking spaces.

Doing this, we hope to improve the transport of goods in Santiago de Compostela and reduce the carbon footprint.

Creating the right infrastructure

As part of the project, we have developed a space called Living Lab where we can advise entrepreneurs and other businesses on how to use the system to create their own autonomous vehicles.

During the next few months, the team will make digital mapping of Santiago’s city centre, laying the foundation for more autonomous vehicles and developers will begin testing the autonomous distribution of goods.

Transforming public transport

In the UK, we’ve been similarly testing autonomous vehicles. This time a shuttle bus.

Working with Aurrigo, we’re trialling an autonomous shuttle bus which runs between the car park and the campus at Cambridge University.

Using 5G and Edge Computing, we can improve the safety and performance of this public service, as the shuttle can react immediately to changing road conditions.

Watch as the team involved tell us more:

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As 5G becomes more readily available, smart city use cases will pick up pace and soon cars will be able to communicate with the road, buildings, and even infrastructure such as traffic lights, about things like traffic flow and parking spaces.

This will bring wider societal benefits such as reduced emissions and greater safety on the road.

The journey to safer roads

It may take some time to get there, but already European cities are speeding up their plans. New research by Vodafone found that 88% of countries have begun their smart city digital transformation and 7 in 10 plan to invest in smart solutions in the future.

Creating smart city blueprints, like we are doing in Santiago, will be a key part of this, especially if the European Commission wants 100 carbon-neutral and smart cities by 2030.

At Vodafone, we’re committed to helping our partners and customers innovate using the latest technologies to achieve this goal, but are also addressing other challenges, such as the problem of data fragmentation and information silos.

Today, transport authorities are often limited to delivering safety updates through road infrastructure or via a limited number of technologies developed by independent manufacturers.

Through our Safer Transport for Europe Platform (STEP), a cloud-based platform built on open, industry standards, a wide eco-system of participants – governments, transport authorities, vehicle manufacturers and mobility service providers – will be able to work together to improve road safety across Europe.

Together, we can create cleaner, greener streets for everyone.

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