UK’s first full-sized autonomous bus begins depot trials
This trial evaluates potential benefits of autonomy in a real-world scenario, and works to improve the safety of buses with state-of-the-art technology.
The UK’s first full-sized autonomous bus is being trialled in a Manchester bus depot.
The ground-breaking project – involving a single-deck vehicle – is part of a programme being delivered by Stagecoach in partnership with Alexander Dennis Limited (ADL) and Fusion Processing.
The 11.5m ADL Enviro200 is now operating autonomously within Sharston depot, and the technology being used has the potential to provide future road safety benefits for vehicles operating in manual mode.
Trialled by Stagecoach, the ADL-manufactured bus has been fitted with the CAVstar® system by Fusion Processing. The trial includes the bus being used in autonomous mode within the depot environment – parking and moving into the bus wash.
The CAVstar system uses multiple sensor types including radar, LIDAR, optical cameras and ultrasound, along with satellite navigation to detect and avoid objects, in all weathers, day and night, and plan an optimum path for the vehicle.
The software forms the basis for an autonomous vehicle trial due to get underway in 2020 in which a fleet of five autonomous buses similar to this one will carry passengers between Fife and Edinburgh, across the Forth Road Bridge Corridor.
Stagecoach Chief Executive, Martin Griffiths, said: “This is an exciting project to trial autonomous technology on a full-sized bus for the first time in the UK. Our employees are the beating heart of our business and I believe that will remain the case, but the world is changing fast, particularly where new technology is involved, and it’s our job to lead the way in looking at ways to continually progress and improve our operations for the good of the many people who use our bus services every day.”
The technology can also be used to help improve the safety of road users in manually-driven vehicles. For example, the sensor system on the vehicle can be used to provide assistance to the driver by warning of cyclists or pedestrians that may be in the blind spot or arrive unexpectedly close to the vehicle.
Jim Hutchinson, CEO of Fusion Processing Ltd, said: “Our sensor and control system has now been successfully applied to vehicles ranging in size from two-seater electric vehicles right up to a 12m, 43-seater bus. Today offers a glimpse of how future bus depots can be automated for improved safety and efficiency.
“Beyond this trial we look forward to continuing our collaboration with Stagecoach and Alexander Dennis Limited delivering the world’s first large scale autonomous bus service in Edinburgh in 2020.”