Scottish company Stagecoach will carry out road tests of five full-size driverless buses from Monday 25 April, as the company prepares to launch a passenger service later this summer.
“This is a major step forward in our journey to fully launch the UK’s first full-size autonomous bus service and will provide easy access to a new bus route in the heart of Scotland,” said Sam Greer, Regional Director of the company in Scotland.
The CAVForth pilot project will take place on the Forth Road bridge between the Fife Ferrytoll Park and Ride and the Edinburgh Park rail and tram link.
Once service is underway, the buses are expected to offer a service capable of carrying up to 36 passengers over 14 miles across the bridge, with a capacity of 10,000 passengers per week. Each vehicle will carry an experienced security driver and bus captain, tasked with talking to customers about the service and answering their questions.
The project has been developed in collaboration with Stagecoach, Fusion Processing, Alexander Dennis and Transport Scotland, with financial support from the UK Government’s Center for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles.
Jim Hutchinson, CEO of Fusion Processing, was “delighted to lead the world’s most complex and ambitious autonomous vehicle program.”
The autonomous bus market has attracted more and more attention in recent years, and is expected to grow by 1,990 units during 2021-2025, with an annual growth rate of 27%. The road tests in Scotland follow the success of depot tests, track tests and virtual simulation that Stagecoach says put autonomous buses to the test to fine-tune driving systems.
There are six levels of driving, defined by the Society of Automotive Engineers. The buses being tested will operate at level four, meaning driver attention is not required for safety, but autonomous driving is only supported in limited areas or circumstances. External of them, the driver must intervene.
“As we move into passenger services later in the year, the project will be a landmark demonstration of future technologies in transportation,” said Chris Gall, Alexander Dennis Group Engineering Director.
Stagecoach hopes the project will demonstrate what a future service will look like where the employee can leave the cab while the computer does the driving.