Those behind CAVForth, a trial-run autonomous bus route that will test for future scalability, have announced that, from 15 May 2023, its fleet of five Alexander Dennis autonomous buses will be accepting passengers seven days a week on Stagecoach’s new AB1 route.
The service was officially launched today [Thursday 11 May] in a ceremony attended by Scotland’s transport minister Kevin Stewart, Ray O’Toole, executive chairman of Stagecoach, in addition to representatives from various CAVForth project partners.
Buses will serve passengers between Ferrytoll Park & Ride in Fife and Edinburgh Park and depart every 30 minutes.
The project is led by Fusion Processing Ltd 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.
Buses will depart Ferrytoll Park & Ride in Fife for Edinburgh Park interchange every 30 minutes with a capacity of up to 10,000 passengers a week. Normal Stagecoach fares will apply.
CAVForth has commented that the new 14-mile route will include a range of challenging traffic manoeuvres, including roundabouts, traffic lights and weaving motorway lane changes. The buses will move through mixed traffic at speeds of up to 50mph.
The new AB1 service is set to provide the first direct public transport link between Fife and the amenities at Edinburgh Park. It has the capacity to carry up to 10,000 passengers per week.
Fusion Processing has provided the buses’ autonomous drive system, CAVStar, which utilises data from a collection of sensors including cameras, lidar and radar together with artificial intelligence (AI) processing to deliver journey efficiency in a range of traffic conditions.
What’s more, the fleet will receive information from traffic light systems to support improved journey planning between traffic lights.
Some other efficiency gains that can come from using an autonomous driving system include a reduction in unnecessary braking and accelerating, less wear on brakes and tyres and the corresponding reductions in particulate emissions.
Jim Hutchinson, CEO of Fusion Processing, said: “CAVForth is an exciting showcase of how our CAVstar Automated Drive System can safely operate in a very complex driving environment.
“This pilot is globally significant and marks a step change in the operation of autonomous commercial vehicles on public roads.”
CAVForth operates at the highest level of autonomous vehicle technology currently permissible on public roads in Britain, SAE Level 4, which requires the bus to operate with a safety driver onboard. The drivers on this route have been recruited from Stagecoach East Scotland’s existing driving team.
Anthony Pipe, professor of robotics and autonomous systems at the Bristol Robotics Laboratory, said: “Bristol Robotics Laboratory is very proud to be involved in this ground-breaking project, which is taking a world-lead on advanced automation for the public service vehicle sector.
“The short-term benefits of vehicle autonomy in providing safer and more energy efficient travel will be illustrated by this project and, in the longer term, we believe that it will contribute significantly to transformations in the way we achieve mobility in our society.”