The Darwin SatCom Lab, the UK’s first commercial lab to trial driverless cars, has opened in Oxfordshire.

Located at the Harwell Science and Innovation Campus, the new lab will make use of 5G and satellite technology for trialling autonomous cars.

The lab, which is reported to have been led by telecommunications company O2, is financially backed by the UK Space Agency and will focus on usage of 5G technology to keep vehicles connected.

The UK Science Minister Amanda Solloway was quoted by PA Media as saying: “The UK’s space sector is applying pioneering technologies such as satellite and 5G to essential products and services that will help to transform our everyday lives.

“I am incredibly excited that O2’s first of its kind driverless car lab will enable our most innovative businesses to test these technologies and bring us another step closer to putting self-driving vehicles safely on our roads.”

5G is said to be one of the key technologies for the development of autonomous cars as it is claimed to minimise the time it takes for information to be sent and received.

At the lab, O2 has already converted two Renault Twizy electric cars to autonomous vehicles.

They were equipped with sensors and can be controlled from the lab. Furthermore, they can be driven across the campus using 5G and satellite connectivity.

The lab is part of a four-year programme called Project Darwin that is supported by the UK Space Agency, as well as the European Space Agency (ESA), to test new connectivity technology for autonomous cars.