The UK’s first full-sized bus with driverless technology is being trialled by one of the UK’s biggest transport firms.
Stagecoach said the vehicle – developed in partnership with bus manufacturer Alexander Dennis Limited (ADL) and technology company Fusion Processing – will use autonomous functions to move around a depot in Manchester.
The system uses multiple sensors such as radar, optical cameras and ultrasound to plan a path for the vehicle while detecting and avoiding objects. The equipment is installed on an 11.5-metre ADL Enviro200 bus, which is now able to operate autonomously within Sharston depot.
It’s hoped this could provide future benefits during passenger journeys, such as providing a warning when a cyclist or pedestrian may be in a blind spot. Existing rules mean a driver must remain on board the bus at all times during the trial, although the UK is in the process of updating its regulations around driverless vehicles.
The software being used in Manchester will form the basis of another pilot scheme next year. This involves five autonomous buses transporting passengers between Edinburgh and Fife across the Forth Road Bridge Corridor.
Stagecoach chief executive Martin Griffiths said: “Stagecoach was the original transport disruptor, trying new things and breaking new ground, and that has never changed.
“This is an exciting project to trial autonomous technology on a full-sized bus for the first time in the UK.
“Our employees are the beating heart of our business and I believe that will remain the case, but the world is changing fast, particularly where new technology is involved, and it’s our job to lead the way in looking at ways to continually progress and improve our operations for the good of the many people who use our bus services every day.”