UK-based bus and coach operator Stagecoach has successfully transported its first passengers on board an autonomous bus during a trial in east Scotland on Friday, January 20, 2023.
Funded by the UK government’s Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles, the CAVForth project is set to become the first registered service in the country to use full-size autonomous buses. Five Alexander Dennis Enviro200AV buses will travel at up to 80km/h over a 22.5km route between the Ferrytoll Park & Ride in Fife and the Edinburgh Park Transport Interchange. Stagecoach estimates that the service could complete approximately 10,000 journeys a week once it is fully operational.
During the testing program, Stagecoach invited its Co-Design Panel – a diverse group of local bus users who volunteered to help Stagecoach – to travel on the bus and provide feedback before the service launches to the public in spring 2023.
“This is another hugely significant step forward for the CAVForth project that brings us closer to these autonomous vehicles entering service,” said Ivan McKee, Scotland’s Minister for Business, Trade, Tourism and Enterprise. “It has been really encouraging to watch the project develop through the various steps, from early testing and demonstrations through to carrying of passengers along the route for the first time. Our trunk road network can provide a wide range of environments as a diverse testing ground, and the groundbreaking and globally significant Project CAVForth will really help Scotland establish its credentials on the world stage.”
Louise Simpson, operations director and CAVForth lead project manager for Stagecoach, commented, “We are really excited to have reached this next major milestone in our project plan to deliver the UK’s first full-size 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. 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 and advanced engineering for Alexander Dennis, added, “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.”
The CAVForth project involves a partnership between Stagecoach, Fusion Processing, Alexander Dennis, Transport Scotland, Edinburgh Napier University, Bristol Robotics Lab and the University of the West of England.
See the November 2021 issue of ADAS & Autonomous Vehicle International for an exclusive ‘project brief’ on the CAVForth project!