February 7, 2023
A group of 22 volunteers traveled on the autonomous Stagecoach single-decker over the iconic Forth Road Bridge near Edinburgh in Scotland as part of the CAVForth project.
The successful pilot marked the latest stage of a program that has incorporated depot trials, track assessment and virtual simulations, as well as on-road tests that were launched last April.
And it will act as a prelude to a full-time service that Stagecoach intends to run over a 14-mile route – between Ferrytoll Park and Ride in the county of Fife and Edinburgh Park’s transport interchange – which is scheduled to commence later this year.
The ultimate aim is to have five self-driving buses operating across a full Monday-to-Sunday timetable. The buses will cover the route – which takes in major roads, minor roads, bus lanes, roundabouts, junctions and traffic lights – at speeds of up to 50 mph, with a capacity for about 10,000 journeys per week.
The Enviro200 buses’ are produced by Scottish manufacturer Alexander Dennis, and their Level 4 self-driving functionality is delivered courtesy of tech from Bristol-based company Fusion Processing that includes radar, lidar, high-performance optical processing and artificial intelligence. Level 4, as defined by the Society of Automotive Engineers, means the buses can drive themselves under specific conditions without driver control.
However, according to Stagecoach, the service will be deployed with an experienced bus driver to monitor and oversee progress, and there will also be a human “captain” on board “to offer information, assistance and reassurance.”
The passengers on the pilot were drawn from Stagecoach’s Co-Design Panel, a group of bus users assembled by the company to provide insights and assistance as the CAVForth project evolves. Their feedback was positive, with one member, Fleur Dijkman, commenting: “It was quite exciting, the thought of getting on for the first time. I wasn’t worried at all about it – you wouldn’t know the difference between this and a normal bus from the driving.”
“This is another hugely significant step forward for the CAVForth project that brings us closer to these autonomous vehicles entering service,” said Ivan McKee, the Scottish government’s business minister
“Our trunk road network can provide a wide range of environments as a diverse testing ground, and the groundbreaking and globally significant Project CAVForth will really help Scotland establish its credentials on the world stage,” he said.
The project has been partly funded by the U.K. government’s Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles.
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