First passengers board Stagecoach autonomous bus
What has been described as the UK’s first full-size autonomous bus has carried its first passengers as part of its testing process.
The project, named CAVForth, is part funded by UK Governments Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles and is a partnership between Stagecoach, Fusion Processing Ltd, Alexander Dennis, Transport Scotland, Edinburgh Napier University, Bristol Robotics Lab and the University of the West of England.
It is expected to be the first registered service in the UK to use full-sized autonomous buses. A fleet of five ADL Enviro200AV vehicles will cover a 14-mile route, in mixed traffic, at up to 50mph across the Forth Road Bridge from Ferrytoll Park & Ride in Fife to Edinburgh Park Transport Interchange.
Once registered, the service will operate a frequent timetable with the capacity for around 10,000 journeys per week.
As part of the testing process, Stagecoach invited a group of passengers from its Co-Design Panel to travel on the route to get feedback and share any views or improvements ahead of the full public launch of the service in the spring. The Co-Design Panel is a diverse group of local bus users who have volunteered to help Stagecoach and its project partners design how an autonomous bus service should work. Their insights and advice have informed key aspects of the autonomous vehicle trial. Examples of how they have supported the project include:
- The introduction of a ‘bus captain’ in the saloon to reassure and help passengers with their queries, boarding and purchasing their tickets.
- Helping develop the livery to stand out on the on the road.
- The design of communications and marketing materials which aim to build trust and share what to expect from the service in a simple, understandable way.
Louise Simpson, Operations Director and CAVForth lead project manager for Stagecoach, said: “We are really excited to have reached this next major milestone in our project plan to deliver the UK’s first full sized autonomous bus, which has seen us successfully carry a group of passengers on one of the new buses. Until today, only project team members had been able to trial the autonomous service so it’s great that our Co-Design Panel have had this opportunity and we welcome any views they have to ensure we deliver a great, inclusive, and accessible service to our customers when we launch in the spring.”
Jamie Wilson, Head of Concepts & Advanced Engineering for Alexander Dennis, said: “We are delighted that the UK’s most complex autonomous bus project has now carried its first passengers in another important step for the CAVForth project. The feedback from the Co-Design Panel is a great validation of the work we are doing as we continue the final stages of testing ahead of the launch of scheduled passenger services later this spring.”
Jim Hutchinson, Fusion Processing CEO, said: “This is a significant milestone in the pilot and paves the way to next phase of the programme. Projects such as CAVForth, combined with our ongoing work highlights Fusion’s leadership in the automation of buses, HGVs and freight tugs, in each case offering fleet operators enhanced safety and operational efficiency.”