April 10, 2023
A regular autonomous full-size bus service is to be launched in the United Kingdom in May, in what is being hailed as a world first.
The 14-mile route will be run by Britain’s largest bus and coach operator Stagecoach between the Ferrytoll park and ride facility in the county of Fife, and the Edinburgh Park train and tram interchange in Scotland’s capital city, crossing the famous Forth Bridge on the way.
The news follows the completion of an extensive evaluation program that incorporated depot trials, track work and virtual simulations before road tests got underway last April and it carried its first passengers in early in 2023.
The initiative, known as the CAVForth project, involves several partners and has been partially funded by the U.K. government’s Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles.
It will see five Enviro200 buses from Scottish manufacturer Alexander Dennis use tech from Bristol-based Fusion Processing – including radar, lidar and artificial intelligence – to deliver Level 4 automated functionality. Level 4 is considered by the Society of Automotive Engineers to be when a vehicle is in control of all driving in a specific location or environment.
The five buses will run in mixed traffic at speeds of up to 50 mph, offering a frequent service that has the potential to deliver up to 10,000 passenger journeys a week.
Although the buses have fully autonomous capability, there will be two staffers on board when the service launches. A safety driver will be behind the steering wheel, ready to intervene if required, while there will also be a “captain” present to check tickets and address any passenger concerns or queries.
It is believed that Project CAVForth is the world’s first full-size, self-driving public bus service.
“This is an exciting milestone for this innovative and ambitious project,” said Kevin Stewart, Scotland’s Minister for Transport. “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.”
“Our Enviro200AV autonomous buses will demonstrate the latest innovation in vehicle technology, and we are delighted that passengers traveling between Fife and Edinburgh will be able to experience this for themselves,” added Jamie Wilson, head of concepts and advanced engineering for Alexander Dennis.
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