Coventry University helps lead the way in 5G and connected and automated logistics

Wednesday 19 August 2020

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Coventry University is part of a project that will be testing self-driving trucks at a major car manufacturing facility in the UK.

The project aims to prove the effectiveness of connected and automated logistics involving HGVs using 5G, with automation seen as vital to providing greater productivity.

Coventry University has helped secure funding for the project, which will develop autonomous heavy goods vehicles to test how 5G connectivity can improve productivity through enhanced transport and logistics.

The university will play a pivotal role in ensuring that the connected systems implemented in this project are secure.

The £4.9m 5G enabled connected and automated logistics (CAL) pilot will receive £2.4m from the UK government’s 5G Create, a £30 million open competition combining British creativity with innovative new uses for 5G, as part of the wider £200 million 5G testbeds and trials programme (5GTT) conducted by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).

The North East Automotive Alliance (NEAA) and partners Coventry University, Sunderland City Council, Newcastle University, Vantec, Connected Places Catapult, StreetDrone and Perform Green, have secured funding for both the pilot and proof of concept.

The project will deliver a huge stride forward in CAL, proving last-mile delivery for an autonomous HGV up to 40 tonnes on a private road.

5G is essential as it will uniquely enable the removal of the safety driver from the process, allowing remote teleoperations to overcome abnormal situations.

The project aims to drive operational efficiencies and improved productivity while continuing to develop a globally unique centre of excellence and operational test facility for CAL.

The 5G-connected trucks will be piloted in distributing parts and assemblies across the Nissan Sunderland plant, linking to many local SMEs in the supply chain.

Institute for Future Transport and Cities

The opportunities offered by 5G in Connected and Automated Logistics (CAL) are of paramount importance to future-proofing British industry, particularly as automation is key to ensuring adaptability in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Of equal importance is ensuring that the CAL pilot and proof of concept is capable of withstanding a wide range of potential cyber-attacks. Such attacks are continuously evolving in sophistication, making it vital to ensure that the systems implemented are robust enough to face a diverse range of threats. This is fundamental to building industry confidence in the pilot project.

The Systems Security Group at Coventry University’s IFTC has established itself as a leader in developing best practice for building systems resilience. The Group will therefore play an essential role in system and security development on this project, providing a sound basis for future industry-led CAL solutions.

Siraj Shaikh, Professor of Systems Security and Director of Research at the Institute for Future Transport and Cities (IFTC)

North East Automotive Alliance

The North East is a beacon of automotive productivity boasting high levels of automation and one of the most dynamic workforces. Automated last-mile logistics is the next major innovation challenge in our continual drive for operational efficiency. This project will take 5G enabled solutions out of the testbed into an operational manufacturing environment.

Through our industrial base and the unique assets of our road transport sector, the North East offers an ideal location to support the design, development, and manufacture of CAL solutions. Our vision is that this will be the catalyst for establishing a globally unique centre of excellence and operational test facility for CAL here in Sunderland.

This will provide a stimulus for solution providers and industry to design and develop CAL solutions which meet specific industry challenges related to the factory of the future and intelligent supply chain – driving operational efficiencies and improving productivity.

Paul Butler, CEO of the North East Automotive Alliance


The reality is that autonomous cars are likely still many years from production. However, using the technologies that we’ve already developed in an industrial logistics setting such as this makes sense in a much shorter timeframe. I can see how the development that we’ll be doing as part of the project will quickly scale to many other industrial settings, where reducing cost and increasing safety are critical factors in profitable operations.

Mike Potts, CEO, StreetDrone

Mike Potts believes logistics can be one of the first commercially viable autonomous services and this project provides an ideal testbed for the roll-out of a UK-developed autonomous product.

Sunderland City Council

Now is the time for a regionally focussed investment to automate logistics for manufacturing, unlocking efficiency, improving competitiveness, attracting investment and boosting exports. This project represents a major opportunity to support and accelerate economic growth, creating an exemplar that will encourage further private and public sector investment.

Patrick Melia, chief executive, Sunderland City Council


The UK connected and automated mobility roadmap to 2030 has been created with over 150 organisations across the UK.  It highlights the critical importance of telecommunications to unlock the potential of self-driving vehicles in our society.  It also highlights the fact that freight applications are essential early stage demonstrators of technologies and business models that can increase safety, clean growth and inclusion. This essential project proves the power of next generation telecommunications and accelerates us from testing towards large scale commercial deployment.

Daniel Ruiz, CEO of Zenzic

Newcastle University

This is an important project that plays to the strengths of both the university and the region, it signals our intent to be a significant player in future transport systems.  The regional capabilities and the 5G testbed that will be established by the project will provide a solid foundation for the North East to continue to be an innovative proving ground for smart transport technologies to meet our objectives of tackling decarbonisation, levelling up and growing the economy through the productivity gains that autonomous last-mile logistics can deliver.  This is a strategic project of national Importance, aligns with DfT priorities, and my team are delighted to be part of it.

Phil Blythe, Professor of Intelligent Transport Systems, Newcastle University