Work is underway on the UK’s first full-sized driverless bus.
Stagecoach is working with bus maker Alexander Dennis Limited (ADL) and Bristol technology developer Fusion Processing to produce a single deck autonomous bus.
Once complete, the 12m ADL Enviro200 vehicle will be completely autonomous and able to operate without a driver in an off-road environment. 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.
Fusion Processing has been a leading part of several driverless vehicle trials in Bristol and London, refining the technology that combines data from multiple sensors such as radar, laser, camera and ultrasound, with satellite navigation to detect and avoid objects, in all weathers, day and night, and plan an optimum path for the vehicle.
“Stagecoach has 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 Sam Greer, UK Bus Engineering Director at Stagecoach.
As driverless busses aren’t yet allowed on the roads, the bus will be used in autonomous mode only within the depot environment, to carry out movements such as parking and moving into the fuelling station and bus wash. Using self-driving vehicles within depots more widely could help improve safety, efficiency and use of space within the depot.
Fusion’s CAVstar technology in the bus can also be used straight away to help improve the safety of road users. For example, when the bus is driven in manual mode, the sensor system will warn the driver of cyclists or pedestrians that may be in the blind spot or arrive unexpectedly close to the vehicle. This technology is also being used on the new Metrobus routes in Bristol, although not for a driverless system.
“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,” said Jim Hutchinson, CEO of Fusion Processing. The company recently moved out of the Engineshed incubator up to Future Space at the University of the West of England.