The operator is involved in two new autonomous projects in Cambridge and Sunderland, in addition to its existing CAVForth trial in Fife
Stagecoach has announced that it will be expanding its development of autonomous bus technology further with new trials taking place in Cambridge and Sunderland, as well as extending its Scottish cross-Forth trial to cover a longer route.
The move follows the announcement by the UK Government that grants have been given to seven successful autonomous projects across the country, forming what it says will become the most advanced set of commercial, self-driving passenger and freight operations anywhere in the world. A total of £81 million has been made available in combined Government and industry funding for the projects.
Three autonomous projects that Stagecoach is involved in have been granted funding through the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV) Connected and Automated Mobility Programme (CAM).
Led by Fusion Processing, the funding will allow the project to build further on what is believed to be the world’s most complex full-sized automated bus service, running along a 14 mile route, and building on a pilot project that is nearing completion with a launch planned in the spring (see last week’s news pages). This extension to the project will test and refine the commercial service model, from the current ‘captained’ service, with a staff member on board, to future deployments. It will also allow the route over the Forth Bridge to be extended to Dunfermline city centre, a total distance of nearly 20 miles. The additional section of the route will take in more complex autonomous driving scenarios on busy A- and B-roads, mixing with city centre traffic, making it more comparable with express style bus routes.
Jim Hutchinson, CEO of Fusion Processing, explained: “CAVForth2 builds on our extensive experience in developing a fleet of five full size SAE Level 4 autonomous buses, engineered to operate safely on public roads and extends the route by a further five miles into a more complex urban environment. We have every confidence that the next generation of our CAVStar Automated Drive System, which combines a range of radar, LiDAR and optical sensors with state-of-the-art artificial intelligence processing units, will be up to the task.”
Project partners include Stagecoach East Scotland, Alexander Dennis, University of the West of England, and Edinburgh Napier University.
Sunderland Advanced Mobility Shuttle
Led by the City of Sunderland Council, the project will research, build, trial and evaluate the deployment of a highly automated, remotely supervised, zero-emission passenger service in the City of Sunderland, which aims to increase connectivity between a key transport interchange and two high-volume destinations, namely the University of Sunderland’s city campus and Sunderland Royal Hospital. Project partners include Stagecoach North East, Angoka, Aurrigo, Newcastle University, Swansea University, and BAI Communications.
Project Cambridge Connector
Led by Greater Cambridge Partnership, the Cambridge project will pilot on-demand self-driving vehicles. Up to 13 electric vehicles will provide passenger services that integrate with existing transport services within Cambridge across two sites, Cambridge University’s West Cambridge Campus and the Cambridge Biomedical Campus.
Lead partner Greater Cambridge Partnership is the local delivery body for a City Deal with central Government, and is working in partnership with Cambridgeshire County Council, Cambridge City Council, South Cambridgeshire District Council and University of Cambridge. Other project partners include: d-Risk AI, Stagecoach East, IPG Automotive UK, Conigital and Gamma Energy.
Carla Stockton-Jones, UK Managing Director of Stagecoach, said: “We’re very proud to be pioneers of this technology with our plans to roll out the UK’s first full-sized autonomous bus service in Scotland in the spring. “The Government funding means that we can build further on this achievement by trialling exciting new autonomous projects with our partners in Cambridge and Sunderland, and at the same time advancing the technology as we extend our Scottish bus trial to cover a longer route.
“We look forward to working with our partners across the country to roll out these new projects which will help ensure that the UK remains firmly on the map for its advancements in autonomous technology.”
Business Secretary Grant Shapps said: “In just a few years’ time, the business of self-driving vehicles could add tens of billions to our economy and create tens of thousands of jobs across the UK. This is a massive opportunity to drive forward our priority to grow the economy, which we are determined to seize. The support we are providing today will help our transport and technology pioneers steal a march on the global competition, by turning their bright ideas into market-ready products sooner than anyone else.”