Autonomous bus trials to be expanded with £81m funding
Autonomous bus technology is to continue to be trialled in the UK, as the government announces further support in testing the technology.
Seven autonomous vehicle projects have been awarded a share of £81m through the government’s Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles Connected and Automated Mobility programme. Among the winners is the CAVForth2 project, which is to receive a £10.4m share of the funding. It will see Alexander Dennis (ADL) continue to develop autonomous bus technology with project leader Fusion Processing. This project will see Stagecoach extend the 14-mile route of the existing CAVForth autonomous bus service from Edinburgh Park station across the Forth Road Bridge on to Dunfermline city centre. Capability to accomplish this challenging driving will come from an upgraded version of the CAVStar ADS (Automated Drive System) that will be developed and supplied by Fusion Processing during the project.
CAVForth2 will utilise an autonomous version of the next-generation Enviro100EV electric bus from Alexander Dennis, also fitted with Fusion’s CAVStar ADS. This Enviro100AEV will operate alongside five existing autonomous Alexander Dennis Enviro200AV buses from the original CAVForth project.
These buses will continue to be staffed by specially-trained ‘Autonomous Bus Professionals’ recruited by Stagecoach from across its East Scotland business. These experienced bus drivers will act as safety drivers and monitor the autonomous system alongside a bus ‘Captain’ who will move around the vehicle, talking to passengers about the service and answering any questions they may have.
Stagecoach is also involved in two more of the seven projects that have received funding. The operator is involved in the Sunderland Advanced Mobility Shuttle, which is receiving £6m to build and trial a self-driving shuttle service to the University of Sunderland and the Sunderland Royal Hospital.
Project Cambridge Connector will see Stagecoach take part in a trial of on-demand, self-driving taxis, to complement existing transport services in parts of Cambridge. It is to receive a £17.4m share of the funding.
“We’re very proud to be pioneers of this technology with our plans to roll out the UK’s first full-sized autonomous bus service in Scotland in the spring” – Carla Stockton-Jones, UK Managing Director of Stagecoach
Carla Stockton-Jones, UK Managing Director of Stagecoach, said: “We’re very proud to be pioneers of this technology with our plans to roll out the UK’s first full-sized autonomous bus service in Scotland in the spring.
“The government funding announced today means that we can build further on this achievement by trialling exciting new autonomous projects with our partners in Cambridge and Sunderland, and at the same time advancing the technology as we extend our Scottish bus trial to cover a longer route.
“We look forward to working with our partners across the country to roll out these new projects which will help ensure that the UK remains firmly on the map for its advancements in autonomous technology.”
Another beneficiary of the funding is Project Harlander, which will see £11m to deploy a self-driving shuttle service around Belfast Harbour. The Multi-Area Connected Automated Mobility project is to receive £15.2m to establish a remote driving control hub, to oversee self-driving vehicles operating in Solihull and Coventry, with the NEC and local councils.
The V-CAL project will see £8m spent on rolling out self-driving and remotely piloted HGVs between the Vantec and Nissan sites in Sunderland. The Hub2Hub trial is to get the remaining £13.2m to develop a new, zero-emissions, self-driving HGV with Asda.
“This is a massive opportunity to drive forward our priority to grow the economy, which we are determined to seize” – Business Secretary Grant Shapps
Business Secretary Grant Shapps said: “In just a few years’ time, the business of self-driving vehicles could add tens of billions to our economy and create tens of thousands of jobs across the UK. This is a massive opportunity to drive forward our priority to grow the economy, which we are determined to seize.
“The support we are providing today will help our transport and technology pioneers steal a march on the global competition, by turning their bright ideas into market-ready products sooner than anyone else.”