SWINDON’S UK Space Agency is joining forces with O2 in a bid to create the technology needed for driverless cars.

The Darwin project will test the high-speed 5G data connections needed for the cars to function.

And it will develop the next-generation of telecoms satellites needed to allow them to drive in rural areas.

According to the Space Agency, so-called connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs) ‘operate with high levels of automation thanks to the ability to communicate with other vehicles and to road infrastructure around them’.

Director of growth at the UK Space Agency Catherine Mealing-Jones said: “Autonomous vehicles require robust high-speed mobile data connections to operate effectively.

“So building the technology to link autonomous vehicles to telecoms satellites means that you will be able to take your car wherever you want to go, not just where there’s decent mobile signal.

“I’m delighted to support Project Darwin to ensure that this critical technology is developed, bringing expertise, jobs and growth to Britain.”

Business secretary Greg Clark said: “Our world-beating space and auto industries have a proven track record in driving forward pioneering research, while the UK’s satellite services are constantly enhancing services such as the quality of our communications, healthcare and environmental monitoring.

“This new partnership between Government and industry will build on our world-leading reputation in the development and manufacture of satellites even further, to bring together two of the UK’s great strengths – automotive and space. Putting us at the forefront of the next generation of self-driving cars of tomorrow – a key ambition in our modern Industrial Strategy.”

The government have invested heavily in the project over the years by putting in £120 million into the driverless car’s development, and £68 million coming from industry contributions.

The research will be done at Harwell Science and Innovation Campus, Oxfordshire, and will be co-funded by the UK Space Agency. Oxford and Glasgow universities are also partnering up to help with the project.