A fleet of full-size autonomous buses are now serving passengers along a 15-mile route in Scotland in what is the first service of its kind in the UK
Five of the buses run between Edinburgh to a destination that runs over Scotland’s famous Forth Road Bridge.
A Sky News reporter who took the inaugural ride commented: “This is a strange experience. Normally you’d sit back and relax, not having to think about anything, but you can’t help but look at every turn and turn this bus is making.”
The project, called CAVForth, is the result of a collaboration between organizations that include Edinburgh Napier University, Bristol Robotics Lab and Bristol-based Fusion Processing, which helped develop the bus’ autonomous system.
The buses are equipped with a range of sensors to help it safely navigate the route, which includes pedestrian bus and train stations, single-lane roads, a 50km/h motorway, stoplights and traffic circles.
Each bus currently has two staff on board: one person to assist passengers and take payment for tickets, and a safety driver at the wheel ready to take over should an unexpected situation arise.
Stagecoach, the company that runs the service, said it hopes to remove the safety drivers before long, allowing the buses to depart without anyone behind the wheel.
The company aims to use the autonomous vehicles for about 10,000 passenger journeys per week.
“Autonomous vehicles are tipped to bring many benefits to the transportation industry and society at large,” Stagecoach said on its website. “From safer, greener roads to a better customer experience. It could also offer improved access to transport through lower operating costs.”
It added: “We expect people to be curious, excited, even a little nervous at first, and this will quickly turn to enjoyment and acceptance when the bus is running safely and the service meets your needs and expectations.”
Public transport services using such large autonomous buses are unusual, as most of them use much smaller vehicles and often in enclosed spaces such as university campuses, recreational areas or industrial parks.