UK’s first full-size autonomous bus carries passengers for the first time
As part of the testing process, 22 passengers experienced the autonomous vehicle for the first time and provided Stagecoach with insight into how they think an inclusive and accessible autonomous bus service can be achieved.
Stagecoach has announced that it has successfully transported its first group of passengers, as part of the testing process of the UK’s first full-size autonomous bus in East Scotland.
The project, named CAVForth, which is partly funded by the UK government’s Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles, will be the first registered service in the country to use full-sized autonomous buses.
A fleet of five vehicles will cover a 14 mile route, in mixed traffic, at up to 50mph across the Forth Road Bridge from Ferrytoll Park & Ride, in Fife to Edinburgh Park Transport Interchange. Once registered, the service will operate a frequent timetable with the capacity for around 10,000 journeys per week.
As part of the extensive testing process, Stagecoach had invited a group of passengers from its Co-Design Panel to travel on the route, in order to get feedback and share any views or improvements ahead of the full public launch of the service in spring 2023. The Co-Design Panel is a diverse group of local bus users who have volunteered to help the company and its project partners design how an autonomous bus service should work. Their insights and advice have informed key aspects of the autonomous vehicle trial.
Examples of how the Co-Design Panel has supported the project include:
- The introduction of a ‘bus captain’ in the saloon to re-assure and help passengers with their queries, boarding and purchasing their tickets
- Helping develop the eye-catching livery to stand out on the on the road
- The design of communications and marketing materials which aim to build trust and share what to expect from the service in a simple, understandable way.
Louise Simpson, Operations Director and CAVForth Lead Project Manager for Stagecoach, said: “We are really excited to have reached this next major milestone in our project plan to deliver the UK’s first full-sized autonomous bus, which has seen us successfully carry a group of passengers on one of the new buses. Until today, only project team members had been able to trial the autonomous service so it’s great that our Co-Design Panel have had this opportunity and we welcome any views they have to ensure we deliver a great, inclusive, and accessible service to our customers.”
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