The next time you get on a bus in Scotland and it drives itself, don’t panic: this is all part of a government plan to make self-driving technology mainstream.
Five fully autonomous buses will hit the streets near Edinburgh next month, announced Stagecoach, the UK’s largest bus and coach operator, will manage the fleet.
The British government said the project, called CAV forward, would be the world’s first full-size, self-driving public bus service. CAV stands for ‘connected and autonomous vehicles’.
The service, which aims to carry 10,000 passengers a week, will initially run a 14-mile (22.5 km) circuit route, including a stretch across the iconic Forth Road Bridge – one of Scotland’s most important landmarks.
The vehicles have sensors that allow them to travel on pre-selected roads at speeds of up to 80 km/h. The buses operate at AV level 4, which means they have a trained safety driver on board, but the driver is not expected to touch the controls while the vehicle is in autonomous mode.
Fully self-driving cars are not legal in the UK. A safety driver is mandatory at all times in all autonomous vehicles, although the government is working on an updated legal and assurance framework.
Scottish Transport Minister Kevin Stewart said the “innovative and ambitious project” was an “exciting milestone” that will help Scotland “establish its credentials on the world stage”.
Project CAVForth is estimated to cost around £6.1m and is part-funded by the Center for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV), delivered in partnership with Innovate UK. It’s part of the UK government’s £100m Intelligent Mobility Fund, which aims to accelerate the commercialization of self-driving transportation technology.
CAVForth’s rollout of its autonomous bus fleet next month marks the culmination of more than four years of research, planning and development. Similar CAV projects are planned in Sunderland and Belfast.
Self-driving buses are not a new concept. There will be a new self-driving electric bus in 2021 began active in Malaga, Spain, in a project presented as a first in Europe.
In the United Kingdom, the The Cambridge Connector project, which aims to deploy 13 automated electric vehicles in the city, is planned launch next year.
Perhaps the largest self-driving car project in Europe ULTIMOwith a budget of more than €55 million and will test autonomous public transport in three European cities: Geneva, Switzerland; Kronach, Germany; and Oslo, Norway.
Fully autonomous vehicles have long been a goal for major automakers and companies numerous startups compete for one importance in the industry. It is however unlikely that self-driving cars without safety drivers will be seen on public roads within ten years.