Self-driving buses enter service on UK roads for first time

CAVFORTH project

Vehicles will operate on a 14-mile route in mixed traffic conditions

Stagecoach will carry 10,000 passengers a week between Edinburgh and Fife on its autonomous buses from next month

The UK’s first autonomous bus fleet will operate services on public roads in east Scotland from next month. 

The project, named CAVForth, involves a fleet of five driverless buses operating services over a frequent timetable between hubs in Edinburgh and Fife. It is predicted to cater for around 10,000 passenger journeys per week. 

Operator Stagecoach, which runs the Megabus franchise, Scottish Citylink and Sheffield-based Supertram network, is using a fleet of Alexander Dennis Enviro200AV vehicles, which will operate on a 14-mile route in mixed traffic conditions at speeds of up to 50mph from 15 May. 

The route begins at Ferrytoll Park and Ride in Fife and ends at Edinburgh Park Transport Interchange. It will cross the River Forth via the Forth Road Bridge, which is open to buses, taxis and motorbikes only. 

The project is part of a joint venture consisting of six organisations – Fusion Processing, Stagecoach, Alexander Dennis, Transport Scotland, Edinburgh Napier University and Bristol Robotics Lab – and will be the UK’s first registered bus service to use driverless vehicles.

Two members of staff will be on board during a typical service, including a ‘safety driver’, who sits in the driver’s cab to ensure the technology works smoothly, and a ‘captain’, who supervises the passenger compartment to check tickets and answer questions. 

Minister for transport for Scotland Kevin Stewart said: “This is an exciting milestone for this innovative and ambitious project, and I very much look forward to seeing Project CAVForth take to the roads next month.

“Our trunk road network can provide a wide range of environments as a diverse testing ground, and it (the project) will really help Scotland establish its credentials on the world stage.”

Safety driver training is currently under way for the project, with 20 staff members completing training before it launches next month. 

This comes after news that the move to autonomous vehicles in the public and freight transportation sector is slowly gaining traction. Commercial vehicle start-up HVS, also based in Scotland, was recently awarded a £6.6 million government grant to develop its autonomous hydrogen-powered HGV. This is part of an attempt to decarbonise “one of the biggest-polluting vehicle sectors on the road”.

Another British firm, Oxbotica, is shifting focus away from autonomous use of cars and moving instead to using autonomous tech for public transport and jobs that are dangerous, mundane and very specific.

Source: Autocar

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