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Stagecoach trials full-size driverless bus

Bus operator Stagecoach is testing out a full-size autonomous bus in its own depots, with future potential for use on passenger routes

Public transport operator Stagecoach is developing a full-size bus that does not require a driver and hopes to begin testing it in its depots by the end of the year.

The autonomous single-deck bus, which is being developed with bus manufacturer Alexander Dennis Limited (ADL) and technology company Fusion Processing, will also improve safety when driven manually.

The bus will be tested in Stagecoach depots, where it will drive into fuelling stations, the bus wash and will also self-park.

Although the vehicle will not be used in autonomous mode in passenger service for some time, it will improve the road safety of buses straight away, said Stagecoach.

“When the bus is driven in manual mode, the sensor system, whilst 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,” the company said.

Eventually, Stagecoach plans to use the buses to carry passengers.

“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,” said Stagecoach UK bus engineering director Sam Greer.

The bus will be fitted with the CAVstar system from Fusion Processing, which uses radar, laser, camera and ultrasound sensors, along with satellite navigation, to detect and avoid objects.

CAVstar was used in an autonomous vehicle trial in Greenwich earlier this year.

Thomas Di Giacomo, chief technology officer at SUSE, said: “It’s no exaggeration to say that, as a disruptive technology, artificial intelligence is set to change the world. Self-driving vehicles – made possible by advancements in AI – have been in development or testing for some time, but the news that one of Britain’s biggest transport operators will be trialling a full-size driverless bus later this year emphasises the increased awareness of potential benefits in this space.”

Read more about autonomous vehicles

In January, a trial in Stockholm’s business district saw commuters travel on driverless buses in real traffic.

The Stockholm shuttle buses will travel at 24kph and carry up to 11 people. There will be a conductor on the buses, which were free to use during the trial.

Ericsson worked with organisations such as Stockholm City on the project, using its Connected Urban Transport (CUT) traffic management system. The platform connects infrastructure and traffic, and provides data to stakeholders.

Read more on Artificial intelligence, automation and robotics

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