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First full-sized autonomous bus trial on UK public roads

Technology News |
By Nick Flaherty


The UK’s first full-sized autonomous bus is being tested on public roads in Scotland this week ahead of a pilot service.

This is in preparation for the launch of the CAVForth pilot service in late summer which will see five single-deck autonomous buses operating at SAE Level 4 over the Forth Road Bridge between Ferrytoll Park and Ride in Fife and the Edinburgh Park Train and Tram interchange.

The CAVForth project is led by bus operator Stagecoach, in partnership with Fusion Processing, Alexander Dennis and Transport Scotland, and is carrying out on-road testing of the autonomous bus without passengers over the next two weeks.

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The buses use the CAVstar sensor fusion system from Fusion Processing in Bristol. This enables them to run on pre-selected roads without the safety driver having to intervene or take control. The buses will provide a service capable of carrying up to 36 passengers over the 14 miles across the bridge, with capacity for over 10,000 passengers a week.

“The buses are fitted with CAVstar, our automated driving system which combines our own hardware and software to create, safe, full-size buses, operating at SAE Level 4. On road testing is an exciting milestone in the development of autonomous commercial vehicles and we look forward to welcoming passengers onboard in a few months’ time,” said Jim Hutchinson, CEO at Fusion Processing.

The on-road testing in Scotland follows successful depot-based trials, track testing and virtual simulation where the buses have been put through their paces to fine tune the autonomous drive systems.

As part of project CAVForth, around 500 members of the public have helped with the implementation of the new autonomous bus service on it, providing feedback on what would make them feel comfortable and confident in travelling. Built on the feedback, the project will make sure future autonomous bus services still have a member of staff on board.

Over 20 specially trained ‘Autonomous Bus Professionals’ are being recruited by Stagecoach from across its East Scotland business. When the service goes live, these experienced bus drivers will monitor the autonomous system alongside a bus ‘Captain’ who will move around the saloon, talking to passengers about the service and answering any questions they may have, demonstrating what a future service might feel like when the staff member is able to leave the cab while the computer does the driving.

“This is a hugely exciting project for Scotland and we are pleased to be starting live testing on roads today. This is a major step forward in our journey to fully launch the UK’s first full-sized autonomous bus service and will provide easy access to a brand-new bus route in the heart of East Scotland,” said Sam Greer, Regional Director for Stagecoach in Scotland.

“The start of on-route testing is a milestone for our autonomous bus project. In partnership with Stagecoach, Fusion Processing and Transport Scotland, Project CAVForth helps us to explore new technologies that will make buses even safer and even more efficient. As we move towards passenger services later in the year, the project will be a landmark demonstration of future technologies in transport,” said Chris Gall, Group Engineering Director at bus maker ADL.

www.fusionproc.com; www.cavforth.com/automated-vehicle-systems/

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