UK’s first ‘driverless bus’ service launches on Forth Road Bridge
Autonomous buses were demonstrated on the Forth Road Bridge on Thursday ahead of going into passenger service in what’s being billed as the most complex test of the technology anywhere in the world.
From 15th May 2023, the project’s fleet of five Alexander Dennis Enviro200AV autonomous buses will operate a scheduled passenger service seven days a week on Stagecoach’s new AB1 route. Buses will depart Ferrytoll Park & Ride in Fife for Edinburgh Park interchange every 30 minutes.
The 14-mile route crosses the Forth Road Bridge and is made up of A-roads, motorways, bus lanes and private land. It includes a range of complex traffic manoeuvres such as roundabouts, traffic lights, and ‘weaving’ motorway lane changes. The vehicles will travel in mixed traffic up to 50mph.
The new CAVForth service provides the first direct public transport link between Fife and the business parks and retail outlets at Edinburgh Park. It has the capacity to carry up to 10,000 passengers per week. Stagecoach’s normal bus fares apply.
The Alexander Dennis Enviro200AV buses are derived from the manufacturer’s standard Enviro200 single-decker, more than 8,000 of which are in operation across the UK.
The buses incorporate Fusion Processing’s autonomous drive system, CAVStar, which uses data from a suite of sensors including cameras, LiDAR and radar together with artificial intelligence processing to deliver optimum efficiency throughout the journey, in all traffic conditions.
In addition, receiving information directly from traffic light systems enables the bus to plan its speed to run smoothly run from one green light to the next. This intelligent autonomous driving reduces unnecessary braking and accelerating, contributing to less wear on brakes and tyres, with corresponding reductions in particulate emissions.
CAVForth operates at the highest level of autonomous vehicle technology currently permissible on public roads, SAE Level 4, requiring the buses to retain a safety driver. Twenty autonomous bus professionals have been recruited from Stagecoach East Scotland’s existing driving team.
To support the project’s extensive research on passenger and public acceptance of autonomous vehicle technology, a second autonomous bus professional will act as bus captain, moving freely around the vehicle to engage with customers.
Says Jim Hutchinson, Fusion Processing CEO:
“CAVForth is an exciting showcase of how our CAVstar Automated Drive System can safely operate in a very complex driving environment. This pilot is globally significant and marks a step change in the operation of autonomous commercial vehicles on public roads.”
Adds Ray O’Toole, Executive Chairman for Stagecoach:
“This is an incredibly exciting time, and we are delighted to see the hard work of all partners involved pay off. We are proud to be at the forefront of transport innovation with this project, marking a significant milestone for public transport and we look forward to welcoming our customers on board from Monday.”