The UK’s first full-sized self-driving bus will take to the roads this week as part of a government-sponsored autonomous vehicle project.
The Project CAVForth pilot, which is funded by the UK government’s Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV), will see five single-deck autonomous buses – each manned by a safety driver – operate in and around the Edinburgh region over the next two weeks.
Bus firm Stagecoach, in partnership with technology company Fusion Processing, bus manufacturer Alexander Dennis, and Transport Scotland, will carry out initial passengerless on-road testing in preparation for the launch of a passenger service this summer.
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 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.”
The buses will travel at speeds of up to 50mph on their 22.5-kilometre route, which will mostly involve motorways.
On part of their motorway journeys, the vehicles will operate in bus lanes on an ‘actively managed hard shoulder’, but will also have to navigate minor roads and a business park site.
Sensors enable the buses to run on pre-selected roads without safety drivers having to intervene or take control, but each will have an experienced driver monitoring the system.
When the passenger service launches later this year, each vehicle will also have a ‘bus captain’ on board who will talk to customers about the service.
Jim Hutchinson, Fusion Processing CEO, said: “CAVForth will provide a useful service to local people as well as being a great demonstration of Fusion’s automated vehicle technology.
“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.”
When fully operational for passengers, the buses will provide a service capable of carrying up to 36 people, with a capacity of 10,000 a week.
There are currently six levels of driving automation as defined by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) – ranging from zero (fully manual) to five (fully autonomous).
During the initial trial, the vehicles will operate at SAE level four, meaning no driver attention is required for safety but self-driving is only supported in limited areas or circumstances.
Chris Gall, Group Director at Alexander Dennis, said the testing was a “milestone for our autonomous bus project”.
“As we move towards passenger services later in the year, the project will be a landmark demonstration of future technologies in transport.”
Image: Fusion processing
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