cavforth autonomous bus

Autonomous bus service to launch in Scotland next month

Image credit: stagecoach

Stagecoach has announced its autonomous bus service will launch in May carrying passengers across the Forth Road Bridge near Edinburgh.

The service will see five single-decker autonomous buses ferry around 10,000 passengers across the bridge every week.

Two members of staff will remain onboard, a safety driver in the driver’s seat to monitor the technology, and a ‘captain’ in the saloon to take tickets and answer customer questions.

The project, named CAVForth, will be the first registered bus service in the UK to use full-sized autonomous buses. A fleet of five Alexander Dennis Enviro200AV vehicles will cover a 14-mile route, in mixed traffic, at up to 50mph across the iconic Forth Road Bridge from Ferrytoll Park & Ride, in Fife, to Edinburgh Park Transport Interchange.

Scottish transport minister Kevin Stewart said: “This is an exciting milestone for this innovative and ambitious project, and I very much look forward to seeing Project CAVForth take to the roads next month.

“Our trunk road network can provide a wide range of environments as a diverse testing ground, and the ground-breaking and globally significant Project CAVForth will really help Scotland establish its credentials on the world stage.”

Testing for the new service began in April 2022 following successful depot-based trials, track testing and virtual simulation, which Stagecoach said put the autonomous buses through their paces to fine-tune the drive systems.

There are six levels of driving, as defined by the Society of Automotive Engineers. The buses being tested will operate at level four, meaning no driver attention is required for safety but self-driving is only supported in limited areas or circumstances. Outside these, the driver must intervene.

Carla Stockton-Jones, UK managing director for Stagecoach, said: “We are excited to introduce the UK’s first autonomous bus fleet in East Scotland, which is also home to our headquarters and where it all began over 40 years ago.

“We are proud to be at the forefront of transport innovation with this project that marks a significant milestone for public transport and we look forward to welcoming our customers on board in the coming months.”

The autonomous bus market has been increasingly attracting attention over the past few years, and it is expected to grow by 1,990 units during 2021-2025, at an annual growth rate of 27 per cent.

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