The successful bid from bus operator Stagecoach along with partners Transport Scotland, Alexander Dennis Ltd (ADL), Fusion Processing Ltd, ESP Group, Edinburgh Napier University and University of West of England, will see five autonomous single deck vehicles running between Fife and Edinburgh across the Forth Road Bridge.
The trial will begin during 2019 and will see the bus, operated by Stagecoach East Scotland, used autonomously to Level 4 standard, which means that a driver must remain on board during any journey in line with UK regulations.
Funding of £4.35million has been awarded by the UK Government through Innovate UK with additional investment from operator Stagecoach, Transport Scotland, vehicle manufacturer ADL, technology company Fusion Processing Ltd, and mobility services specialist ESP Group.
Once complete, the 11.8m ADL Enviro200 vehicles will operate between Ferrytoll Park & Ride facility in Fife and the Edinburgh Park Train and Tram interchange. The bus will use both on-road and hard shoulder running, and will use the dedicated public transport corridor across the Forth Road Bridge that allows buses and taxis to use dedicated lanes between the M9 near Newbridge and Halbeath in Fife.
The autonomous buses will provide a service capable of carrying up to 42 passengers 14 miles across the Forth Bridge to Edinburgh Park Train and Tram interchange. With buses every 20 minutes this could provide an estimated 10,000 weekly journeys
Work on the project is expected to get underway during the second quarter of next year at ADL’s manufacturing depot in Guildford with the first vehicles expected to go into service during 2020.
The project partners said: “We’re delighted to have been awarded this funding and we are excited to further test the potential for autonomous technology in the future within public transport using full size single deck buses, which so far has not been achieved anywhere else in the world. Drivers will still be required on all vehicles at all time while in service for passenger safety and to comply with UK legislation.”
Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity Michael Matheson said: “This is a very exciting development and underlines the potential Scotland has when it comes to connected and autonomous vehicles.
“The Forth has been at the centre of engineering innovation over three centuries and it is fitting that it will be central to this next innovation in transport and our Programme for Government commitments to intelligent mobility.
“The deployment of these vehicles in Scotland will bring transformative change to the way we travel and work, as well as having a positive impact on the economy, the environment and safety. This collaborative trial, using one of the country’s most iconic transport corridors, shows Scotland is very much open for business in this innovative sector.
“I very much welcome the strong Scottish contingent in the bid team and I look forward to following this project with great interest.”