Driverless bus under development in UK

Work has begun on trialing the country’s first full-sized driverless bus, writes Paul Myles.

A public transport provider has announced plans to develop the first full-size driverless bus to pave the way to an autonomous on UK roads.

Stagecoach has confirmed today it has partnered with bus manufacturer Alexander Dennis Limited (ADL) and technology company Fusion Processing to produce a single deck autonomous bus.

Once complete, the £12M ($15.7M) ADL Enviro200 vehicle will be completely autonomous and able to operate without a driver, albeit initially in an off-road environment, and the technology also promises other road safety benefits when driven in manual mode. Work on the vehicle is being carried out at ADL’s site in Guildford and the bus is expected to be ready for use by the end of this year.

In the short term, the bus will be used in autonomous mode only within the depot to carry out movements such as parking and moving into the fueling station and bus wash.  Using self-driving vehicles within depots more widely could help improve safety, efficiency and use of space within the depot.

While current UK road regulations prevent the running of the bus on open highways, Stagecoach claims the system can be used in the short-term to help improve the safety of road users.  For example, when the bus is driven in manual mode, the sensor system on the bus can be employed to provide assistance to the driver by warning of cyclists or pedestrians that may be in the blind spot or arrive unexpectedly close to the vehicle.

Stagecoach UK bus engineering director Sam Greer said: “Stagecoach has long been at the heart of innovation within the bus industry and this is an exciting trial that will deliver the UK’s first fully autonomous single deck bus. We look forward to working with our partners on this project which we believe could, in time, help improve safety and efficiency within our depots, and over the longer term, help transform bus travel in the future.”

The Stagecoach bus will be fitted with the CAVstar® system provided by Fusion Processing – a system used in the UK’s largest public trial of autonomous vehicles to date, in Greenwich early 2018 and a number of other projects. The system uses multiple sensor types, including radar, laser, camera and ultrasound, along with satellite navigation to detect and avoid objects, in all weathers, day and night, and plan an optimum path for the vehicle.

Jim Hutchinson, CEO of Fusion Processing said: “We’re delighted Stagecoach and Alexander Dennis have selected our CAVstar® product, the sensor and control system that enables autonomous vehicles.  CAVstar® will offer increased safety and efficiency, and will be demonstrated in the Stagecoach trials later this year.”

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