UK’s first driverless bus service starts taking passengers

The autonomous bus is operating across the Firth of Forth (Andrew Milligan/PA) (PA Wire)
The autonomous bus is operating across the Firth of Forth (Andrew Milligan/PA) (PA Wire)

The UK’s first autonomous bus service has begun taking paying passengers across the Forth Road Bridge.

The vehicles infact have two members of staff – a safety driver who can take control of the vehicle and a “captain” to sell tickets and provide customer service.

The Stagecoach service, from Ferrytoll Park and Ride in Fife to Edinburgh Park Transport Interchange, will operate on a trial basis until 2025 as part of the CAVForth project.

A fleet of five Alexander Dennis Enviro200AV buses will cover a 14-mile route, in mixed traffic, at up to 50mph across the bridge.

While buses generally have just one driver, the captain is on board to demonstrate what a full-size autonomous bus may feel like in the future when the buses can operate with one member of staff who can leave the cab as the computer drives.

It is hoped autonomous buses will improve safety by reducing reaction times, and improve efficiency by optimising acceleration and deceleration which, it is hoped, will deliver significant energy savings and reduced wear and tear on the vehicles.

As media were shown the buses at an event last week, Stagecoach director Sam Greer said: “We’ll look to analyse the data, the reaction and feedback from passengers and the general public about acceptance of the technology and we’ll make a decision about how we use the technology in the future.

“I would say to anyone who is a bit cautious about using the vehicle not to be, there is a full safety case that has been worked through.

“The vehicle has been certified as safe for public use.”

The buses have completed one million testing miles so far.

CAVForth is a collaborative project, comprising of Fusion Processing, Stagecoach, Alexander Dennis, Transport Scotland, Edinburgh Napier University, Bristol Robotics Lab and the University of the West of England.

It is part-funded by the UK Government’s Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles.