The UK’s first full-sized autonomous bus gave its first public demonstration at the National Exhibition Centre in October 2019 for visitors to the Coach & Bus UK show.
Members of the public travelled on an 11.5m Alexander Dennis bus as it manoeuvred around part of the NEC car park.
The demonstration replicated work done by Fusion Processing, Alexander Dennis and bus operator Stagecoach earlier in the year to demonstrate buses navigating autonomously around a depot.
Fusion Processing chief executive Jim Hutchinson said: “Every night there is a big operation at a depot to wash, fuel and park the buses ready for the next day. By automating this it can be made more efficient.”
The NEC bus manoeuvred between areas representing a bus wash, fuelling station and parking space. It negotiated obstacles and a moving cyclist.
Hutchinson said: “This was an opportunity to get public engagement – making sure everyone’s comfortable [with autonomous technology]. There’s no better way than getting people on board.”
Only slow speeds were possible, but the trial demonstrated the precision with which the system operates, positioning the bus to within 5cm.
The three companies are collaborating on the CAVForth project, whose launch is due next summer. This will be a public pilot carrying fare-paying passengers on a 15-mile route from a park and ride site in Fife, over the public transport-only Forth Road Bridge to the Edinburgh Park train and tram interchange.
A fleet of five buses, with GPS but navigating mainly by cameras, radar and lidar, will operate at Level 4 autonomy at speeds of up to 50mph. The route includes bus lanes, motorway, a two-way single carriageway A-road and some urban roads, with traffic lights and roundabouts.