Scotland to launch the world’s first self-driving commuter bus fleet

  • April 7, 2023

Five single-decker buses will be in service, carrying approximately 10,000 passengers weekly.

The world’s first fleet of self-driving commuter buses is set to enter service in Scotland next month. This comes after at least one successful trial run in January, as well as financial support from the UK government. 

Stagecoach’s self-driving vehicles will begin service on a 14-mile (22.5 km) circuit that includes Edinburgh’s famous Forth Road suspension bridge on May 15. 

Five single-decker buses will be in service, carrying approximately 10,000 passengers weekly.

Stagecoach said that their autonomous buses will move at a top speed of 50mph (80 kph) through pre-selected highways and bus lanes while navigating traffic lights and roundabouts. Although no human drivers are required for each bus, two staff members will remain on board at all times—one in the driver’s seat to oversee piloting systems and another to assist passengers, accept tickets, and assist as needed.

The initiative is part of the UK government’s Project CAVForth initiative. “CAV” is an abbreviation for “connected autonomous vehicles.” CAVForth, which was founded in 2019, will launch its autonomous bus fleet next month, capping almost four years of research, planning, and development.

“This is an exciting milestone for this innovative and ambitious project, and I very much look forward to seeing Project CAVForth take to the roads next month,” Scotland’s Minister for Transport, Kevin Stewart, said in a statement. “The route will really help Scotland establish its credentials on the world stage,” he added.

Stagecoach UK managing director Carla Stockton-Jones said, “We are excited to introduce the UK’s first autonomous bus fleet in east Scotland which is also home to our headquarters and where it all began over 40 years ago. We are proud to be at the forefront of transport innovation with this project that marks a significant milestone for public transport and we look forward to welcoming our customers on board in the coming months.

Besides the new self-driving commuter bus circuit, Stagecoach is introducing a further 122 new fully electric buses in key transport networks across the UK in the next 12 months. The operator has also recently introduced its first fully electric bus cities in Perth, Aberdeen, Inverness and Dunfermline in Scotland, and in 2020 made one of the biggest single investments in electric vehicles in Europe with its double-decker fleet in Manchester. 

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