Stagecoach, a UK bus and coach operator, has announced the successful transportation of a group of passengers using an autonomous vehicle (AV) in East Scotland.
The project, named CAVForth, is partially funded by the UK government’s Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles, and plans to be the first registered service in the UK to use full-sized autonomous buses.
Some 22 passengers got to experience the test drive in what Stagecoach has called a ‘major milestone’ for the project.
A fleet of five Alexander Dennis Enviro200AV vehicles will be used across a 14-mile (22.5km) route, in mixed traffic, at up to 50mph (80km/h) across the Forth Road Bridge from Ferrytoll Park & Ride in Fife to Edinburgh Park Transport Interchange.
According to Stagecoach, once operational, the service will operate a frequent timetable with the capacity for around 10,000 journeys per week.
In order to test the vehicle, the bus operator invited passengers from its Co-Design Panel to travel on the route and offer feedback on any potential improvements ahead of the full public launch of the service in the spring.
The Co-Design Panel is comprised of a group of local bus users who have volunteered to help Stagecoach and its project partners examine how a functional autonomous bus service should work.
Ivan McKee, Scottish minister for business, trade, tourism and enterprise, said: “This is another hugely significant step forward for the CAVForth project that brings us closer to these autonomous vehicles entering service.
“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 ground-breaking and globally significant Project CAVForth will really help Scotland establish its credentials on the world stage.”
CAVForth represents a partnership between Stagecoach, Fusion Processing Ltd, Alexander Dennis, Transport Scotland, Edinburgh Napier University, Bristol Robotics Lab and the University of the West of England.