The Project CAVForth pilot will see five autonomous single deck buses operating at SAE Level 4 over the Forth Road Bridge between Ferrytoll Park and Ride in Fife and the Edinburgh Park train and tram interchange.
Bus operator Stagecoach will be conducting on-road testing of autonomous buses in partnership with Fusion Processing, Alexander Dennis Limited (ADL) and Transport Scotland.
No passengers are being carried in these trials, which are in preparation for the launch of the CAVForth pilot service later this year.
The Project CAVForth pilot, which is jointly funded by the UK Government’s Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV) and the project partners Fusion, ADL, Stagecoach and Transport Scotland, will see five autonomous ADL Enviro200 single deck buses operating at SAE Level 4 over the Forth Road Bridge between Ferrytoll Park and Ride in Fife and the Edinburgh Park train and tram interchange.
The buses are fitted with Fusion Processing’s sensor and control technology, CAVStar, that enables them to run on pre-selected roads without the safety driver having to intervene or take control. The buses will provide a service capable of carrying up to 36 passengers at a time over the 14 mile journey across the bridge, with capacity for more than 10,000 passengers a week.
“This is a major step forward in our journey to fully launch the UK’s first full-sized autonomous bus service and will provide easy access to a brand-new bus route in the heart of East Scotland”
The on-road testing in Scotland follows successful depot-based trials, track testing and virtual simulation where the buses have been put through their paces to fine tune the autonomous drive systems.
To help support the delivery of Project CAVForth, Transport Scotland recently opened a section of “actively managed hard shoulder” for all buses on the eastbound M8 motorway. It will reportedly help to reduce journey times and improve journey time reliability for all buses of 24 seats or more on approach to Edinburgh.
More than 20 specially trained autonomous bus professionals are soon to be recruited by Stagecoach from its East Scotland business. When the service goes live, these experienced bus drivers will monitor the autonomous system alongside a bus “captain” who will move around the saloon, talking to passengers about the service and answering any questions they may have, demonstrating what a future service might feel like when the staff member is able to leave the cab while the computer does the driving.
“Stagecoach is continuing to look for ways to improve the service it offers to customers, including through major investment in new technology, such as CAVForth,” said Sam Greer, regional director for Stagecoach in Scotland.
“Project CAVForth helps us to explore new technologies that will make buses even safer and even more efficient”
“This is a hugely exciting project for Scotland and we are pleased to be starting live testing on roads. This is a major step forward in our journey to fully launch the UK’s first full-sized autonomous bus service and will provide easy access to a brand-new bus route in the heart of East Scotland.”
Chris Gall, group engineering director at ADL, which is a subsidiary of NFI Group, an independent bus and coach manufacturer and electric mass mobility solutions provider, added: “[The] start of on-route testing is a milestone for our autonomous bus project.
“Project CAVForth helps us to explore new technologies that will make buses even safer and even more efficient. As we move towards passenger services later in the year, the project will be a landmark demonstration of future technologies in transport.”