Autonomous bus rolls out on Scotland’s roads

By Categories: NewsPublished On: Monday 25 April 2022

A vehicle described as the UK’s first full-sized autonomous bus is taking to Scottish roads for the first time this week as live testing commences for Project CAVForth, a scheme which aims to provide a fully autonomous bus service between Fife and Edinburgh.

Bus operator Stagecoach, in partnership with Fusion Processing, Alexander Dennis and Transport Scotland, will carry out on-road testing without passengers over a two-week period, in preparation for the late summer launch of a pilot CAVForth passenger service.

The on-road testing follows successful trials at depots, as well as track testing and virtual simulations during which the autonomous drive systems have been fine-tuned.

The project is jointly funded by the UK government’s Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV). It will see five single-decker buses operating at SAE Level 4 autonomy over the Forth Road Bridge between Ferrytoll Park and Ride in Fife and the Edinburgh Park Train and Tram interchange.

The buses are equipped with sensor and control technology from Fusion Processing called CAVstar, which enables the vehicles to run on preselected roads without the intervention of the safety driver. The service will have a 36-passenger capacity over the 14 miles across the bridge, equating to 10,000 passengers per week.

In support of delivery of the project, Transport Scotland recently opened a section of actively managed hard shoulder for all buses on the M8 eastbound, which aims to help reduce journey times and improve reliability for all buses of 24 seats or more on approach to Edinburgh.

Around 500 members of the public have assisted with Project CAVForth by providing feedback on aspects that would help them feel comfortable and confident in travelling on autonomous buses. Based on this, project partners have developed a vision which includes ensuring future autonomous bus services will still have a member of staff on board.

Over 20 specially trained ‘autonomous bus professionals’ will shortly be recruited by Stagecoach from its East Scotland operation. These experienced drivers will monitor the autonomous system alongside a bus ‘captain’ who will move around the saloon, talking to passengers, answering questions and demonstrating what a future service might feel like when the staff member is able to leave the cab while the computer drives the vehicle.

Sam Greer, regional director for Stagecoach in Scotland, said: “Stagecoach is continuing to look for ways to improve the service it offers to customers, including through major investment in new technology, such as the CAVForth pilot.

“This is a hugely exciting project for Scotland and we are pleased to be starting live testing on roads today. 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, ADL Group engineering director, added: “The start of on-route testing is a milestone for our autonomous bus project. In partnership with Stagecoach, Fusion Processing and Transport Scotland, 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.”

Jim Hutchinson, Fusion Processing Ltd CEO, said: “We are delighted to be leading the world’s most complex and ambitious autonomous vehicle programme. CAVForth will provide a useful service to local people as well as being a great demonstration of Fusion’s automated vehicle technology.

“The buses are fitted with CAVstar, our automated driving system which combines our own hardware and software to create, safe, full-size buses, operating at SAE Level 4. On road testing is an exciting milestone in the development of autonomous commercial vehicles and we look forward to welcoming passengers onboard in a few months’ time.”