Autonomous, zero-emission bus service goes live in Oxfordshire

First is operating what has been described as the UK’s first zero-emission autonomous bus service in Oxfordshire.

Operated by First Bus and fully accessible for wheelchair and pushchair users, the 15-seater fully electric bus will carry passengers around Milton Park, a business, science and technology park near Didcot and Abingdon.

Services will run every 15 minutes between 7am and 6.30pm Monday to Saturday. A qualified safety driver is onboard the bus at all times to provide a personalised service and information to passengers.

Branded Mi-Link, the bus service is part of a five-year project called MultiCAV – comprising a range of experienced and diverse organisations led by First Bus, as well as Fusion Processing, Oxfordshire County Council, University of the West of England (UWE Bristol), Zipabout and Milton Park.

The £4.3m project has been funded by a £3m grant from the DfT’s Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV) through Innovate UK.

The service starts after being trialled earlier this year.

“Today is a landmark for public transport in this country” – John Birtwistle, Project Lead at First Bus

John Birtwistle, Project Lead at First Bus, said: “Today is a landmark for public transport in this country. This service brings together technologies in zero-emission bus design, vehicle movement and travel planning to create a new experience.

“First Bus serves millions of customers in the UK, and we know that so many of our customers take the bus because they care about our planet and reducing their carbon footprint. We’re excited to now offer them an even smarter, greener and quieter way to travel, and we cannot wait to hear some feedback on the new service.”

Journeys further afield to Didcot Parkway train station, including a service using a larger electric bus capable of carrying up to 28 passengers, are expected to be added later in the year.

The Mi-Link journey planner tool, developed by Zipabout to support the service, is the first in the world to use WhatsApp for autonomous bus messaging.

“As part of the service, passengers now have hassle-free access to a variety of tools helping them travel around Milton Park seamlessly” – Daniel Chick, CTO of Zipabout

Daniel Chick, CTO of Zipabout, said: “We’re very excited to see the launch of this innovative fully electric autonomous bus service, which integrates with Zipabout’s technology to provide passengers with the customised Mi-Link journey planner.

“As part of the service, passengers now have hassle-free access to a variety of tools helping them travel around Milton Park seamlessly. With no cumbersome app to download, they can receive real-time information about all the Mi-Link services through their favourite channels, including WhatsApp or SMS.

“Using the data and insight from the Zipabout Platform, local authorities and operators can now better understand transport demand in the area, paving the way to helping people get to and around Milton Park more sustainably.”

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