UK’S FIRST FULL-SIZED AUTONOMOUS BUS BEGAN TRIALS
The UK’s first full-sized autonomous bus is now being trialled in Manchester Sharston bus depot. The ground-breaking project – involving a 11.5m ADL Enviro200 single-decker – is part of a programme being delivered by transport operator Stagecoach in partnership with bus manufacturer Alexander Dennis Limited (ADL) and technology company Fusion Processing.
The technology being used could also provide future road safety benefits for vehicles operating in manual mode. The ADL-manufactured bus has been fitted with the CAVstar system provided by Fusion Processing Ltd, and is being trialled by Stagecoach. The trial includes the bus being used in autonomous mode within the depot environment, to carry out movements such as parking and moving into the bus wash. The CAVstar control and sensing system was utilised successfully in the UK’s largest public trial of autonomous vehicles to date, in Greenwich last year, and a number of other projects. The system uses multiple sensor types including radar, LIDAR, optical cameras 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. This technology can also be used to help improve the safety of road users in manually driven vehicles. For example, the sensor system on the vehicle can be used 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.
The software being used in the pilot vehicle also forms the basis for a significant autonomous vehicle trial due to get underway in 2020 when a fleet of five autonomous buses similar to this one will operate – carrying passengers - between Fife and Edinburgh, across the Forth Road Bridge Corridor. Funding of £4.35m from the UK Government’s Innovate UK fund was awarded last year to the CAVForth project team which includes Stagecoach along with partners Transport Scotland, Alexander Dennis Limited (ADL), Fusion Processing Ltd, ESP Group, Edinburgh Napier University and University of West of England. The vehicles in both trials will be used autonomously to Level 4 standard which means that a safety driver must remain on board in line with UK regulations.