World first

Self-drive buses drawing keen interest overseas

Autonomous buses were given a test drive over the Forth

Self-driving buses will begin scheduled services across the Forth from Monday with interest gathering from around the world in technology developed in Scotland.

Operator Stagecoach said five “autonomous” vehicles will have a capacity for 10,000 passengers per week to be carried between Ferry Toll park and ride in Fife and Edinburgh Park train and tram interchange.

The Alexander Dennis Enviro200AV buses are equipped with software allowing them to cover the 14-mile route in mixed traffic at up to 50mph.

However, a safety driver and ‘captain’ will join passengers on board to ensure the service operates as it should.

The CAVForth project is led by Fusion Processing in cooperation with project partners Stagecoach, Transport Scotland, Alexander Dennis, Edinburgh Napier University and Bristol Robotics Laboratory. It is co-funded by the UK Government’s Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles.

At a media launch yesterday, Transport minister Kevin Stewart hailed the trial as “innovative and ambitious,” adding: “It is really exciting to see the CAVForth Project take to the roads in earnest after all the hard work of the partner organisations involved in bringing this world first to Scotland.”

The safety driver will remain on board throughout the journey to monitor the technology while the captain will be available to answer passenger queries as well as assist with boarding and buying tickets.

Director of Stagecoach Sam Greer said ‘We’ll look to analyse the data, the reaction and feedback from passengers and the general public about acceptance of the technology and we’ll make a decision about how we use the technology in the future.’

The pilot is due to run until 2025 and there is big from Dubai and Tokyo as the technology is geared towards the international market.

Mr Greer said: “When you consider the billions of dollars spent globally on autonomous bus transport, I’m not surprised there is worldwide media interest.”

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