Scottish Transport Minister Kevin Stewart helped launch the UK’s first autonomous bus service today ahead of CAVForth’s first passenger service on Monday 15 May.
The fleet of five Alexander Dennis Enviro200AV will cover the 14 miles across the Forth Road Bridge from Ferrytoll park-and-ride site in Fife and Edinburgh Park transport interchange.
Part-funded by the UK Government’s Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV), the AB1 is believed to be the first registered bus service in the world to use full-sized autonomous buses.
The trial project, which will run until 2025, is thanks to a collaboration between Fusion Processing Ltd, Stagecoach, Alexander Dennis, Transport Scotland, Edinburgh Napier University, Bristol Robotics Lab, and the University of the West of England.
The service will have two members of staff on board. A “safety driver” will monitor the technology while a “captain” will take tickets and deal with customer queries.
According to Stagecoach, “the captain is there to demonstrate what a full-size autonomous bus might feel like in the future, when one member of staff can leave the cab while the computer does the driving, and engage with passengers, much like a conductor would have done.”
While the service takes 10,000 passengers per week over the Forth, the collaborators will tweak the technology and monitor the benefits for customers.
It was announced in February that the CAVForth service will be extended north to Dunfermline.
Mr Stewart says: “It is really exciting to see the innovative and ambitious CAVForth project take to the roads in earnest after all the hard work of the partner organisations involved in bringing this world first to Scotland.
“We want Scotland to continue to be at the forefront in the development of connected and autonomous vehicles and the start of this live trial will really help the country establish its credentials on the world stage. I am excited to see how this technology can help to support our vision for a sustainable, inclusive, safe and accessible transport system.”
Ray O’Toole, Executive Chairman for Stagecoach, adds: “This is an incredibly exciting time, and we are delighted to see the hard work of all partners involved, pay off on the official launch by Scottish Transport Minister, Kevin Stewart.
“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.”
The onboard Fusion Processing’s autonomous drive system, CAVStar, uses data from sensors to maximise efficiency throughout the journey, whatever the traffic conditions. Receiving information directly from traffic-light systems enables the vehicle to plan its speed to run smoothly between green lights. The system reduces unnecessary breaking and thus less wear on brakes and tyres and a reduction in emissions.
Jim Hutchinson, Fusion Processing Chief Executive, says: “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.”