A fleet of full-size autonomous buses is now serving passengers along a 15-mile route in Scotland in what is the first service of its kind in the U.K.
Five of the buses are running between Edinburgh to a destination that takes it across Scotland’s famous Forth Road Bridge.
A Sky News reporter who took the inaugural ride commented: “This is a strange experience. Usually you’d be sitting down and relaxing, not having to think about anything, but you can’t help but look at every twist and turn this bus is making.”
The project, named CAVForth, is the result of a collaboration between organizations that include Edinburgh Napier University, Bristol Robotics Lab, and Bristol-based Fusion Processing, which helped to develop the bus’s autonomous system.
The buses are fitted with a suite of sensors to help it safely navigate the route, which includes pedestrianized bus and train stations, single-lane roads, a 50-mph highway, stoplights, and traffic circles.
Each bus currently has two members of staff aboard: a person to assist passengers and take payments for tickets, and a safety driver at the wheel ready to take over should an unexpected situation arise.
Stagecoach, the company operating the service, said it hopes to remove the safety drivers before too long, enabling it to send the buses off with no one behind the wheel.
The company is aiming to use the autonomous vehicles for around 10,000 passenger journeys a week.
“Autonomous vehicles are tipped to offer many benefits to the transport industry and society as a whole,” Stagecoach said on its website. “From safer, greener roads, to better customer experience. It could also offer improved access to transport through lower operating costs.”
It added: “We expect people to be curious, excited, even a little nervous to begin with, and this to quickly turn into enjoyment and acceptance when the bus travels safely, and the service meets your needs and expectations.”
Public transportation services using such large autonomous buses are unusual as most of them deploy much smaller vehicles and often in enclosed spaces such as college campuses, recreation areas, or industrial parks.