UK bus operator First Bus has announced that the ‘UK’s first’ zero-emission autonomous bus service has begun serving the public for the first time in Oxfordshire.
The service is operated by First Bus and is reportedly fully accessible for wheelchair and pushchair users, with the 15-seater fully electric bus set to carry passengers around Milton Park.
As it stands, the bus is scheduled to run every 15 minutes between 7am and 6.30pm Monday to Saturday, with a qualified safety driver remaining on board at all times.
John Birtwistle, project lead at First Bus, said: “Today is a landmark for public transport in this country. This service brings together technologies in zero-emission bus design, vehicle movement and travel planning to create a new experience.
“First Bus serves millions of customers in the UK, and we know that so many of our customers take the bus because they care about our planet and reducing their carbon footprint. We’re excited to now offer them an even smarter, greener and quieter way to travel, and we cannot wait to hear some feedback on the new service.”
Named Mi-Link, the bus service is part of the five-year ‘MultiCAV’ project, which is led by First Bus, as well as Fusion Processing Ltd, Oxfordshire County Council, University of the West of England (UWE Bristol), Zipabout and Milton Park.
The £4.3m project has been funded by a £3m grant from the Department for Transport’s Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV), via Innovate UK.
Later in 2023, the bus is expected to make journeys outside of the park, such as to Didcot Parkway train station.
“The free autonomous bus service will enable people visiting or working at Milton Park to travel emissions-free to key destinations around the Park, reducing the need to use a car,” said Veronica Reynolds, sustainability and community manager at Milton Park.
“We’re really looking forward to hearing more from our occupiers, visitors and the wider community on their experience of using the autonomous bus, e-bikes and journey planner. Their feedback will be pivotal in shaping the next steps of cutting-edge and sustainable travel in the UK.”
What’s more, the Mi-Link journey planner tool – developed by Zipabout to accompany the service – is reportedly the first in the world to use WhatsApp for autonomous bus messaging.