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Self-driving bus demonstrated ahead of Forth Road Bridge launch

By Tom Eden, PA Scotland

A self-driving bus has been put through its paces in Glasgow ahead of its planned roll-out on services across the Forth Road Bridge next year.

The prototype travelled around the SEC car park during an autonomous vehicle trade show.

Stagecoach plans to introduce self-driving services next year and the autonomous buses – which will still require a driver to be present inside the vehicle by law – are set to be road-tested, without passengers on board, by the end of 2019.

The five automated Stagecoach buses will each seat 42 people and are expected to carry 10,000 passengers a week between Ferrytoll park-and-ride in Fife and the Edinburgh Park train and tram interchange.

Transport Secretary Michael Matheson in the self-driving bus (Stagecoach/PA)

The prototype’s maiden Scottish journey was witnessed by Transport Secretary Michael Matheson at the Connected and Autonomous Vehicles Scotland event on Wednesday.

Mr Matheson said: “I was particularly pleased to experience the demo of the prototype automated bus system as it’s the type of innovation that shows Scotland is very much open for business when it comes to trialling these types of vehicles.

“Our trunk road network can provide a wide range of environments as a diverse testing ground, and the ground-breaking and globally significant Project CAVForth will really help Scotland establish its credentials on the world stage.”

Martin Griffiths, chief executive of Stagecoach Group, added: “Our industry, customers and employees can benefit hugely from autonomous technology as it can make services safer, more efficient and help to deliver better journeys.

“We’re also investing heavily in the skills and development of our people. Alongside new technology developments, our employees will continue to play a critical role in delivering sustainable mobility services that our customers trust and rely on.”

Mr Matheson, left, with Sam Greer, centre, technical and engineering services director for Stagecoach, and Jim Hutchinson of Fusion Processing (Stagecoach/PA)

The single-deck vehicles are the result of a collaboration between Stagecoach, Alexander Dennis and Fusion Processing, which is now also working with Transport Scotland, Bristol Robotics Laboratory and Napier University on what is known as Project CAVForth.

Alexander Dennis chief executive Colin Robertson said: “This trial allows us to evaluate potential benefits of autonomous technology under real operating conditions, and feeds into our extensive work to further improve the safety of buses with the help of state-of-the-art technology.”

Jim Hutchinson, chief executive of Fusion Processing, said: “Looking across the industry, CAVForth is the most advanced autonomous bus project we see anywhere to day.

“As well as providing autonomous systems, Fusion Processing will provide spin off projects from the technology that can help today’s manual driven buses, such as tech that can recognise pedestrians and cyclists and warn the driver, automated emergency braking, and replacement of external mirrors with advanced vision systems.”