Next time you hop on a bus in Scotland and it drives itself, don’t worry – it’s all part of a government plan to bring self-driving technology into the mainstream.
Five fully autonomous buses will hit the roads near Edinburgh next month, as announced Stagecoach, the UK’s largest bus company, will manage the fleet.
The UK government said the project, called CAVForth, would be the world’s first fully-fledged, self-driving public bus service. CAV stands for “connected and autonomous vehicles”.
The service, which is expected to carry 10,000 passengers a week, will initially run a 22.5km circular route, including a route over the famous Forth Road Bridge – one of Scotland’s most important landmarks.
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The vehicles have sensors that allow them to drive at up to 80 km/h on preselected roads. The buses will operate at AV Level 4, meaning they will have a trained safety driver on board, but the driver is not expected to touch controls while the vehicle is in autonomous mode.
Totally driverless cars are not allowed by law in the UK. A safety driver is required in all autonomous vehicles at all times, although the government is working on an updated legal and safety framework.
The famous Forth Road Bridge connects Edinburgh to Fife. Credit: Ian Cardwell
Scottish Transport Minister Kevin Stewart, called The “innovative and ambitious project” was an “exciting milestone”. will help Scotland ‘establish its credentials on the world stage’.
The CAVForth project, with an estimated cost of around £6.1m, is part-funded by the Center for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV) and implemented in partnership with Innovate UK. It’s part of the UK Government’s £100m Intelligent Mobility Fund, which aims to do just that Accelerating the commercialization of self-driving transportation technology.
CAVForth’s rollout of its autonomous bus fleet next month marks the culmination of over four years of research, planning and development. Similar CAV projects are being planned Sunderland and Belfast.
Driverless buses are not a new concept. 2021 a new driverless electric bus started Operating in Malaga, Spain, in what was the first project presented in Europe.
In the UK it is The Cambridge Connector project, which aims to deploy 13 automated electric vehicles across the city, is about to launch begin Next year.
Perhaps Europe’s largest project for self-driving cars LASTwho has a budget of over €55 million and tests autonomous public transport services in three European cities: Geneva, Switzerland; Kronach, Germany; and Oslo, Norway.
Fully autonomous vehicles have long been a goal of major automakers and corporations many startups compete for a involvement in the industry. However, it is unlikely that self-driving cars without safety drivers will be seen on public roads within the next decade.