UK public transport operator Stagecoach has partnered with bus manufacturer Alexander Dennis Limited (ADL) and technology company Fusion Processing to produce a single deck autonomous bus.
Once complete, the 40ft-long (12m) ADL Enviro200 vehicle will be completely autonomous and able to operate without a driver in a non-public road environment, with the technology also delivering road safety benefits when driven in manual mode on normal transit routes.
Work on the vehicle is being carried out at ADL’s site in Guildford and the bus is expected to be ready for use by the end of this year. In the short term, the bus will only be used in autonomous mode within the depot environment, to carry out movements such as parking and moving into the fueling station and bus wash. Using vehicles in self-driving mode within depots more widely could help improve safety, efficiency and space usage within the facility.
Legal restrictions mean the vehicle will not be used in autonomous mode in passenger service for some time. However, the system can be used straight away to help improve the safety of road users. For example, when the bus is driven in manual mode, its sophisticated sensor system, while not engaged to drive the vehicle, can still 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.
Over time, autonomous bus technology is expected to be used more widely, including on services carrying passengers, depending on legal developments.
The Stagecoach bus will be fitted with the CAVstar system provided by Fusion Processing, which was used successfully earlier this year in the UK’s largest public trial of autonomous vehicles to date, the Greenwich GATEway Project, and a number of other trials, including the Venturer project’s Wildcat vehicle.
The system uses multiple sensor types, including radar, laser, camera 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.
“We have long been at the heart of innovation within the bus industry, and this is an exciting trial that will deliver the UK’s first fully autonomous single deck bus,” said Stagecoach UK’s bus engineering director, Sam Greer.
“We look forward to working with our partners on this project which we believe could, in time, help improve safety and efficiency within our depots, and over the longer term, help transform bus travel in the future.”
Jim Hutchinson, CEO of Fusion Processing, commented, “We’re delighted Stagecoach and Alexander Dennis have selected our CAVstar product, the sensor and control system that enables autonomous vehicles. CAVstar will offer increased safety and efficiency, and will be demonstrated in the Stagecoach trials later this year.”
Ken Scott, group engineering director at ADL, added, “We are renowned for harnessing the latest technology solutions to enhance our products and services to benefit our customers, their passengers and the wider environment.
“We’re excited to be working with Stagecoach and Fusion Processing on this innovative project. In the first instance it will deliver real and demonstrable improvement to efficiency and safety in depots, while taking another significant step on our journey to bringing fully-autonomous vehicles to market.”