The UK’s first full-sized autonomous bus commence operations on the roads of Scotland from April 25 as live testing begins for project CAVForth.

The Stagecoach Group, a Scottish transport group, will partner with Fusion Processing, Alexander Dennis, and Transport Scotland to carry out on-road testing of the self-driving bus for two weeks. After this, the group will begin preparing for the launch of the project’s pilot service later this year.

The pilot, which is jointly funded by the UK Government’s Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles and project partners Fusion, ADL, Stagecoach and Transport Scotland, will see five single-deck autonomous buses operating at SAE Level 4 over the Forth Road Bridge between Ferrytoll Park and Ride in Fife, and the Edinburgh Park Train and Tram interchange.

The buses are fitted with CAVstar, Fusion Processing’s sensor and control technology, that enables them to run on pre-selected roads without the need for the safety driver to intervene or take control. Each service will be capable of carrying up to 36 passengers over the 14 miles across the bridge, with capacity for more than 10,000 passengers a week. The company’s on-road testing follows a series of preliminary testing practices – including successful depot-based trials, track testing and virtual simulations.

The CAVForth project received public input ahead of its on-road testing, with 500 members of the public assisting with the implementation of the new autonomous service. Together, they provided feedback on what would make them feel comfortable and confident in travelling. Elements of this feedback were built into the service, such as ensuring that all future autonomous bus services still have a member of staff on board.

Stagecoach will also look to recruit 20 trained Autonomous Bus Professionals for the project from across its East Scotland business. When the service goes live, these bus drivers will monitor the autonomous system alongside a bus Captain who will move around the saloon – talking to passengers about the service and answering their questions.