First full-size autonomous passenger bus in the UK begins on-road testing
Fusion Processing has announced that an autonomous public transport project will start on-road testing this week, en route to beginning a new 14-mile pilot service ferrying passengers across a long-span suspension bridge in Scotland later this year.
Fusion Processing has partnered with Stagecoach, Alexander Dennis Ltd, Transport Scotland, Edinburgh Napier University and Bristol Robotics Laboratory for the CAVForth project, which has been in the works since 2020.
The pilot project will see five single-deck SAE Level 4 autonomous Dennis Enviro200 buses rolling over the Firth of Forth via the 1.5-mile-long (2.5-km) Forth Road Bridge to carry passengers between Ferrytool Park & Ride in Fife and the Edinburgh Train and Tram interchange.
Each bus is equipped to carry up to 36 passengers along the new 14-mile (22.5-km) service route, for a potential capacity of 10,000 commuters, students, day trippers and tourists per week.
The buses have been decked out in special livery to easily identify them as autonomous vehicles, and fitted out with Fusion Processing's CAVstar automated drive system, which combines radar, LiDAR and optical cameras with an AI control technologies for Level 4 autonomy in complex traffic scenarios including motorways, major and minor roads, bus lanes, roundabouts, junction and traffic lights.
Bus operator Stagecoach is about to hire a bunch of experienced bus drivers to monitor onboard systems, and each bus will have a safety driver onboard – to take over via a second set of steering and braking systems if problems arise, and also answer questions from passengers.
No passengers will be allowed on the buses during the two-week on-road testing period though, which follows successful completion of virtual simulations, depot-based trials and track testing, but the project partners expect the new autonomous bus service trial to start taking passengers from late local summer.
"We are delighted to be leading the world’s most complex and ambitious autonomous vehicle programme," said Fusion Processing CEO, Jim Hutchinson. "CAVForth will provide a useful service to local people as well as being a great demonstration of Fusion’s automated vehicle technology. The buses are fitted with CAVstar, our automated driving system which combines our own hardware and software to create, safe, full-size buses, operating at SAE Level 4. On road testing is an exciting milestone in the development of autonomous commercial vehicles and we look forward to welcoming passengers onboard in a few months’ time."
The CAVForth project has an estimated budget of just over £6 million (about US$7.6 million), is part-funded by the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles in partnership with Innovate UK, and is part of the UK government's £100 million Intelligent Mobility Fund.
Source: Fusion Processing