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First self-driving buses enter service on UK roads

Stagecoach launches the UK’s first autonomous bus service across the Forth Road Bridge

Stagecoach autonomous bus - Alexander Dennis Enviro200AV

The UK’s first self-driving bus service has launched in Scotland, taking passengers across the famed road bridge over the Firth of Forth.

Five full-size Alexander Dennis Enviro200AV buses will traverse the bridge using autonomous driving technology as they transport up to 10,000 passengers per week between the Ferrytoll Park & Ride in Fife and the Edinburgh Park Transport interchange. It’s a journey of 14 miles in mixed traffic at speeds of up to 50mph, but the passengers aren’t being left entirely in the hands of technology. 

A human driver will sit behind the wheel as usual, monitoring the bus’s driving, and ready to take control if required. There’ll be a second crew ‘captain’ in the passenger area to check tickets and deal with customers. Stagecoach tells us the second crew member is there to demonstrate what bus travel may be like in future “when one member of staff can leave the cab while the computer does the driving, and engage with passengers, much like a conductor would have done”.

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The project known as CAVForth has been funded until 2025, and next year it is expected the self-driving bus route will be extended further north to the Dunfermline City bus station.

According to CAVForth members, which as well as bus operator Stagecoach and Alexander Dennis, includes Fusion Processing, Transport Scotland, Edinburgh Napier University, Bristol Robotics Lab, and the University of the West of England, this is the first full-size autonomous registered bus service anywhere in the world. It’s the result of a ten-year development programme by Fusion Processing that has 1.8 million kilometres of test mileage under its belt.

Part of the funding for the project comes from the UK government’s Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV).

Are you excited or concerned by 'self-driving' vehicles? Let us know in the comments section below...

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Current affairs and features editor

Chris covers all aspects of motoring life for Auto Express. Over a long career he has contributed news and car reviews to brands such as Autocar, WhatCar?, PistonHeads, Goodwood and The Motor Trader.

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