Stagecoach and partners begin testing UK’s first full-sized autonomous bus
Backed by the UK’s Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles, the autonomous bus has begun live testing on Scotland’s roads, in preparation for the launch of the CAVForth pilot service in late Summer 2022.
Stagecoach Group – in partnership with Fusion Processing, Alexander Dennis and Transport Scotland – has announced that it will be carrying out on-road testing of the UK’s first full-sized autonomous bus on Scotland’s roads from 25 April 2022 for the following two weeks, in preparation for the launch of the CAVForth pilot service in late Summer 2022.
The Project CAVForth pilot, which is jointly funded by the UK government’s Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV) and the four project partners, 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.
Fitted with a ground-breaking sensor and control technology, the buses can 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 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.
In order to help to support the delivery of Project CAVForth, Transport Scotland has recently opened a section of Actively Managed Hard Shoulder for all buses on the M8 eastbound. It will help to reduce journey times and improve journey time reliability for all buses of 24 seats or more on route to Edinburgh.
As part of Project CAVForth, around 500 members of the public have helped with the implementation of the new autonomous bus service, providing feedback on what would make them feel comfortable and confident in travelling. Built on the feedback received, the partners have developed a vision for the new autonomous vehicles, which includes making sure that future autonomous bus services still have a member of staff on board.
Furthermore, over 20 specially trained ‘Autonomous Bus Professionals’ are soon to be 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 that 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.
Sam Greer, Regional Director for Stagecoach in Scotland, said: “This is a hugely exciting project for Scotland, and we are pleased to be starting live testing on roads this week. 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.”
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