UK’s first full-sized autonomous bus begins depot trials

The UK’s first full-sized autonomous bus is now being trialled in a Manchester bus depot. The project involves a single-deck vehicle and is being delivered by Stagecoach in partnership with Alexander Dennis and technology company Fusion Processing.

The 11.5m ADL Enviro200 vehicle is now able to operate autonomously within Sharston depot, and the technology being used could also provide future road safety benefits for vehicles operating in manual mode, according to the project organisers.

The bus has been fitted with a CAVstar system provided by Fusion Processing, and the trial includes the bus being used in autonomous mode within the depot environment to carry out movements such as parking and moving into the bus wash.

The first public demonstration of the bus was held last month. The CAVstar control and sensing system was utilised in the UK’s largest public trial of autonomous vehicles to date, in Greenwich last year, and a number of other projects.

The system uses multiple sensor types including radar, LIDAR, optical cameras and ultrasound, along with satellite navigation to detect and avoid objects, in all weathers, day and night, and plan an optimum path for the vehicle.

The software being used in the pilot vehicle also forms the basis for a trial due to get underway in 2020 with a fleet of five autonomous buses carrying passengers between Fife and Edinburgh, across the Forth Road Bridge Corridor.

Funding for the Scottish project of £4.35million from the UK Government’s Innovate UK fund was awarded last year to the CAVForth project team which includes Stagecoach along with partners Transport Scotland, Alexander Dennis, Fusion Processing, ESP Group, Edinburgh Napier University and University of West of England.

The vehicles in both trials will be used autonomously to Level 4 standard which means that a driver must remain on board in line with UK regulations.

“Stagecoach was the original transport disruptor, trying new things and breaking new ground, and that has never changed,” says Stagecoach chief executive Martin Griffiths. “This is an exciting project to trial autonomous technology on a full-sized bus for the first time in the UK.

“Our employees are the beating heart of our business and I believe that will remain the case, but the world is changing fast, particularly where new technology is involved, and it’s our job to lead the way in looking at ways to continually progress and improve our operations for the good of the many people who use our bus services every day.”

Colin Robertson, ADL chief executive adds: “This trial allows us to evaluate potential benefits of autonomous technology in a real-world scenario, and feeds into our extensive work to further improve the safety of buses with the help of state-of-the-art technology.”

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