The Aurrigo electric autonomous vehicles will transport passengers along a three-mile route connecting two key locations

Graham Hope

March 11, 2024

2 Min Read
City of Sunderland

Britain’s first-ever autonomous city-center bus service will be up and running within a matter of months.

The U.K. government-backed project will get under way in Sunderland, a city of around 345,000 people in the north-east of England.

And the first of three Sunderland Advanced Mobility Shuttles (SAMS) has already arrived in the city, prior to the launch of the free passenger service.

The electric autonomous vehicles (AVs) have been developed by UK company Aurrigo, and will ferry people on a three-mile route that links two key locations – the local university and Sunderland Royal Hospital – with the city’s Interchange bus station.

Preparations are already being stepped up with comprehensive mapping of the route, while training is also set to start for the pairs of safety attendants who, initially at least, will accompany each journey to “oversee and manage” the autonomous functionality.

Ultimately, though, the aim is for the project to move toward demonstrating that it can be supervised remotely, which is considered a key step towards successful commercial deployment.

The route is part of a so-called “intelligent transport corridor” enabled by 5G small cells installed by another U.K. firm, Boldyn Networks and its launch is being warmly welcomed by city officials.

Related:British Driverless Bus Being Tested in Europe

“The arrival of SAMS signifies Sunderland and the wider region’s position as a forward-thinking location, leading the way in adopting transformative technologies that enhance the lives of our community members,” said Sunderland Mayor Dorothy Trueman.

Aurrigo, which is providing the autonomous tech for the electric shuttles, is based in Coventry in the English Midlands and has already completed several successful trials of its automated solutions.

Its outrageous-looking Auto-Shuttle has been tested in the U.K. and last year also made its first excursion to mainland Europe when it took part in a pilot in the Czech Republic.


COO Richard Fairchild hailed the Sunderland project, saying: “Collaborating with technology leaders at Sunderland City Council and other project partners to develop plans into real-world solutions is a significant step forward in research for self-driving vehicles operating on public roads.”

$3.83 million of funding for SAMS came from the U.K. government, with a similar sum provided by private industry.

The Sunderland initiative is considered a step forward from the U.K.’s first autonomous public transit bus, which was launched in Scotland last year, ferrying passengers on a 14-mile route to the outskirts of the capital Edinburgh from the county of Fife.

Related:Self-Driving Buses Starting in Scotland


However, the Sunderland AVs are likely to face more complex challenges as they will be operating in the city center, as opposed to the suburbs.

About the Author(s)

Graham Hope

Graham Hope has worked in automotive journalism in the U.K. for 26 years, including spells as editor of leading consumer news website and weekly Auto Express and respected buying guide CarBuyer.

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