Telefonica unveiled an R&D centre which it claimed is the most advanced for the development of connected cars in southern Europe, as it looks to extend the sector by opening opportunities for vehicle makers and start-ups to trial related technologies.

The operator partnered with global testing, inspection and certification body Dekra and local authorities to establish the facility in Malaga. It currently has 15 employees, with Telefonica stating the initial investment exceeded €5 million.

Spanish car manufacturer SEAT is already on board, seeking to use the site to test connected car applications and services with 5G solutions and vehicle-to-everything (V2X) technologies.

In a statement, Maria Jesus Almazor, CEO of Telefonica Spain said the centre “is a key element in advancing this path of standard connectivity to make the connected car a reality”.

The site features a 51,000 square metre outdoor testing area covering a variety of road types and intersections designed to replicate real-world driving conditions, all of which feature sensors.

To enable testing of international as well as Spanish frequencies, the operator collaborated with Ericsson to develop and equip a shielded chamber, which Telefonica said was “unique in Europe”.

Testing available includes advanced navigation and infrastructure; vehicle monitoring and maintenance; payment automation; safety and accident prevention; and assisted and autonomous driving.

The Spanish operator said connected cars will contribute to reducing accidents and emissions, and improving driver experience. It cited US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration information which states V2X-connected technologies and applications could prevent more than 600,000 traffic accidents per year in the country.

In previous efforts to bolster its expertise in connected cars, Telefonica joined other leading operators and car manufacturers in the 5G Automotive Association.