AutoAir: a lasting achievement

The AutoAir project has come to an end. Of course, in one sense it’s not over at all.

The findings of this two-year UK Department for Digital Culture, Media, and Sport-funded project looking at the development of connected and autonomous vehicles and the use of 5G on road and rail networks will be relevant for many years.

Many other trials and initiatives – both at the purpose-built Millbrook site and elsewhere – will build on the findings of AutoAir. But the original two-year project has indeed reached its endpoint.

From our point of view, AutoAir was an extraordinary opportunity. Firstly it was an opportunity for Real Wireless to work with some of the most respected names in the wireless space, with participants hailing from both industry and academia.

It was also an opportunity to focus the experience gained from our previous work not only in wireless connectivity, but also fixed and wireless convergence for road and rail – into this dedicated proving ground test bed in the first instance. We were then able to apply that experience to draw together the techno-economic components necessary to scale the analysis to a national context for the UK.

We then evaluated various use cases; modelling demand density and costs, to derive key elements of the business cases for an ultra-dense, small cell network via a neutral host and its mobile operator customers. We were able to make a technical and economic case for small cell and neutral host deployment in the context of connected and autonomous vehicles using advanced 4G and ultimately 5G.

But the project’s scope extended well beyond our analyses. Some extraordinary work was done not only at Millbrook but also the 5GIC on mmWave and MIMO, hyperdense small cells, network construction and siting, mesh topologies, live data collection, use cases, safety, environmental benefits, RAN, inter-vehicle communication and of course, the role of 5G in all of these cases.

This project makes the UK a genuine force to be reckoned with in the area of assessing the use of 5G for connected and autonomous vehicles. It was an amazing collaborative effort, remarkable for how well the participants – from academic, advisory, hardware and software backgrounds – worked together. There were, as one participant put it, new kinds of conversations and massive innovation.

The findings of the project will make fascinating reading when a full report is published later this year and we will make sure to let you know when the report is available (you can register your interest below if you would like to receive a notification). But there will be an ongoing legacy in the form of new projects and collaborations. This project will, we believe, strongly influence future academic and industrial research worldwide into the delivery of hyper-dense connectivity to connected and autonomous vehicles.

If you can’t wait for the report, a video summary of the work done at Millbrook, lasting about 80 minutes, with contributions from all the participants, can be found below. It underlines the varied and multi-disciplinary approaches that made AutoAir at Millbrook one of the most ambitious 5G testbeds and trials sites in the world – and a lasting achievement.