Stagecoach to trial UK’s first full-sized driverless bus for depots

Stagecoach, in a partnership with Alexander Dennis Limited (ADL) and Fusion Processing, is to trial a self-driving single-decker bus.

The newly-built 12m Enviro200 test vehicle, owned by ADL and being developed at its Guildford site, will be tested in a yet-to-be-disclosed Stagecoach depot later this year.

It will be completely autonomous and able to operate without a driver when off-public roads, such as depot parking, moving to the fuelling bay and bus wash.

Self-driving buses in depots could help improve safety, efficiency and space utilisation, says Stagecoach.

The technology also delivers road safety benefits when driven in manual mode as the sensor system provides driver assistance by warning of cyclists or pedestrians in the blind spot, or arriving unexpectedly close to the vehicle.

In the short term, the bus will be used in autonomous mode only within the depot. Legal restrictions means the vehicle will not be used in autonomous mode in passenger service for some time. 

Over time, autonomous bus technology is expected to be used more widely, including on services carrying passengers, dependent on legal developments, says Stagecoach.

The bus will be fitted with Fusion Processing’s CAVstar system, as used in the UK’s largest public trial of autonomous vehicles in Greenwich earlier this year, and a number of other projects.

The system uses multiple sensor types, including radar, laser, camera and ultrasound, along with satellite navigation to detect and avoid objects, in all weathers, day and night, and plan an optimum path for the vehicle.

Stagecoach UK Bus Engineering Director Sam Greer says: “Stagecoach has long been at the heart of innovation within the bus industry and this is an exciting trial that will deliver the UK’s first fully autonomous single deck bus.”

“We look forward to working with our partners on this project which we believe could, in time, help improve safety and efficiency within our depots, and over the longer term, help transform bus travel in the future.”

Jim Hutchinson, CEO of Fusion Processing says: “We’re delighted Stagecoach and Alexander Dennis have selected our CAVstar product, the sensor and control system that enables autonomous vehicles.  CAVstar will offer increased safety and efficiency, and will be demonstrated in the Stagecoach trials later this year. “

Ken Scott, Group Engineering Director at ADL, says: “ADL is renowned for harnessing the latest technology solutions to enhance our products and services to benefit our customers, their passengers and the wider environment.

“We’re excited to be working with Stagecoach and Fusion Processing on this innovative project. In the first instance it will deliver real and demonstrable improvement to efficiency and safety in depots, while taking another significant step on our journey to bringing fully autonomous vehicles to market.”