Scotland is to host a trial of autonomous buses, after Innovate UK announced funding to support a bid from bus operator Stagecoach (www.stagecoach.com
The trial, set to begin next year, will involve five autonomous single-deck buses running between Fife and Edinburgh, across the Forth Road Bridge.
Operated by Stagecoach East Scotland, they will be used autonomously to Level 4 standard, which means that a driver must remain on board during the journey.
Funding of £4.35 million has been awarded by the UK Government through Innovate UK, with additional investment from operator Stagecoach, Transport Scotland, vehicle manufacturer Alexander Dennis Ltd (ADL) (www.alexander-dennis.com
), technology company Fusion Processing Ltd, and mobility services specialist ESP Group.
The 11.8m-long ADL Enviro200 buses will operate between Ferrytoll Park & Ride in Fife and the Edinburgh Park train and tram interchange (a distance of 14 miles).
They will use both on-road and hard-shoulder running, plus the dedicated public-transport corridor across the Forth Road Bridge.
With buses every 20 minutes, each carrying up to 42 passengers, this service could provide about 10,000 journeys per week.
The project partners said: “We are excited to further test the potential for autonomous technology within public transport using full-size single-deck buses, which so far has not been achieved anywhere else in the world.
“Drivers will still be required on all vehicles at all times, for passenger safety and to comply with UK legislation.”