Autonomous zero-emission bus hits the road in Oxfordshire

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The 10.8m Switch MetroCity is the first autonomous full-size zero-emission bus to operate in the UK. FIRST

The next stage of the project at Milton Park has seen a 10.8m electric bus operate on public roads for the first time

A full-size autonomous-capable zero-emission bus has taken to the road in the UK for the first time. Operated by First Bus, the Mi-Link 003 service will carry passengers between Didcot Parkway railway station and the Milton Park science, technology and business community in Oxfordshire, home to more than 270 companies and 9,000 employees.

The service uses a Switch MetroCity 1080EV, and began operating on Thursday 7 September, building on the previous service offered within the business park using a Mellor midibus. The 28-seat electric bus will run every 30 minutes from 0700 to 1830hrs Monday to Saturday until the trial’s conclusion on Saturday 30 September.

The autonomous drive capability is provided by Fusion Processing’s state-of-the-art CAVstar Automated Drive System which includes a controller and high-performance processor combined with range of sensors including radar, LiDAR and cameras to control steering, acceleration and braking without the need for human intervention.

John Birtwistle, Head of Policy at First Bus and leading the MultiCAV consortium delivering the service, said: “We’re leading the way in bringing a revolutionary bus travel experience to more people and delivering this with an innovative and green approach to the future of public transport.”

This latest phase of the UK’s only zero-emission autonomous bus trials builds on the service operated by an all-electric Mellor Orion E minibus which began in June and ran for seven weeks, clocking up more than 3,000 miles. This followed a pilot with the smaller bus in March using a circular route within Milton Park.

Carbon emissions reduction from the pioneering use of all-electric buses in autonomous mode is one of the aims of the consortium behind this revolutionary transport programme. A total of more than 500 trips in the previous phase saved nearly 1.5 tonnes of carbon, equivalent to that produced by a typical household over three months, the operator said.

John added: “The next phase in this ground-breaking bus service gives us the opportunity to show more customers the exciting possibilities afforded by combining zero-emission and digital autonomous technology to provide a smarter, cleaner and quieter way to travel.”

Mahesh Babu, Chief Executive Officer of Switch Mobility, expressed his enthusiasm. He said: “Switch Mobility has long been a pioneer of zero-emission urban mobility. And now as we witness the dawn of autonomous transportation in the real world, we are excited to begin trials of our new autonomous buses in partnership with First Bus.

“This collaboration will demonstrate the financial and environmental advantages deep-rooted in Switch Mobility’s innovative products. Looking ahead, we are committed to shaping the future of mobility, where autonomous electric transportation becomes the norm, setting new standards and inspiring progress in the industry.”

Jim Hutchinson, CEO at technology provider Fusion Processing, added “This latest phase of the trial is another great milestone for us on the path towards provision of our automated systems more widely, enabling the move towards cleaner, greener and more efficient transportation.”