On April 25th, tech company Fusion Processing announced that on-road testing for an autonomous public transportation project would begin this week, with a new 14-mile pilot service ferrying passengers across a long-span suspension bridge in Scotland set to launch later this year.
For the CAVForth initiative, which has been in the works since 2020, Fusion Processing has teamed with Transport Scotland, Stagecoach, Alexander Dennis Ltd, Bristol Robotics Laboratory, and Edinburgh Napier University.
Five single-deck (Level 4 autonomous) Dennis Enviro200 buses will be used in the pilot project to transport passengers between the Edinburgh Train and Tram interchange and Ferrytool Park & Ride in Fife over the 2.5-km-long (1.5-mile) Forth Road Bridge. Along the new 22.5-km (14-mile) service route, each bus can carry up to 36 passengers, with a weekly capacity of 10,000 commuters, tourists, day-trippers, and students.
The buses are equipped with Fusion Processing’s CAVstar automated drive system, which combines LiDAR, radar, and optical cameras with AI control technologies for Level 4 autonomy in complex traffic scenarios such as highways, junctions, major and minor roads, roundabouts, bus lanes, and traffic lights.
Bus operator Stagecoach will hire a group of experienced bus drivers to monitor onboard systems. Additionally, each bus will have a safety driver on board to take over via a second set of steering and braking systems if difficulties emerge and to answer passenger questions.
During the two-week on-road testing phase, which follows the successful completion of depot-based trials, virtual simulations, and track testing, no passengers will be allowed on the buses. However, the project partners expect the new autonomous bus service trial to begin taking passengers in late summer.
Jim Hutchinson, the CEO at Fusion Processing, explained:
“We are delighted to be leading the world’s most complex and ambitious autonomous vehicle program. CAVForth will provide a useful service to local people as well as being a great demonstration of Fusion’s automated vehicle technology.
The buses are fitted with CAVstar, our automated driving system which combines our own hardware and software to create safe, full-size buses, operating at SAE Level 4. On-road testing is an exciting milestone in the development of autonomous commercial vehicles, and we look forward to welcoming passengers on board in a few months’ time.”
The CAVForth project, which has a budget of little over £6 million (roughly US$7.6 million) and is part of the UK government’s £100 million Intelligent Mobility Fund, is partially sponsored by the Center for Connected & Autonomous Vehicles in conjunction with Innovate UK.