Self-driving buses are part of the UK Government’s plan to introduce commercial self-driving services such as delivery vehicles and passenger shuttles.
The Government has launched a £40 million competition to fund projects that will help bring to market the latest developments in autonomous commercial vehicles.
It’s an innovative and ambitious project, with technology that could be worth £42 billion to the UK economy by 2035 and create 38,000 new skilled jobs.
Self-driving bus to launch next month over Scotland’s Forth Road bridge
The first self-driving bus has started operating for passengers in Edinburgh, according to the BBC. Who would have thought it, a self-driving bus service? The autonomous vehicles, operated by Stagecoach, run across the Forth Road Bridge from Ferrytoll Park and ride in Fife to Edinburgh Park station.
According to Sky News, five single-decker autonomous buses will run to a frequent timetable with a capacity for about 10,000 passenger journeys per week.
The buses will have sensors enabling them to travel on pre-selected roads at up to 50mph and also a safety driver will sit in the driver’s seat to monitor the technology.
There will also be a so-called bus captain who will help passengers with boarding, buying tickets, and queries.
The Scottish Government’s transport minister, Kevin Stewart, said: “This is an exciting milestone for this innovative and ambitious project, and I very much look forward to seeing Project CAVForth take to the roads next month.
“Our trunk road network can provide a wide range of environments as a diverse testing ground, and the ground-breaking and globally significant Project CAVForth will really help Scotland establish its credentials on the world stage.”
How does it work?
Self-driving buses work by using sensors that enable them to run on pre-selected roads without the safety driver needing to intervene or take control, says Edinburgh Live.
According to Sky News, the sensors can detect other vehicles, pedestrians, traffic lights and road signs.
The buses also have a bus captain who can help passengers with boarding, buying tickets and any queries and they are expected to be safer, greener, and more efficient than conventional buses.
Busbud also says that the buses follow fixed routes, which are simpler to handle than the various complicated routes a taxi or car usually travels.
Benefits of self-driving busses
Where do we start with public transport and self-driving vehicles? It’s 2023 and the UK’s first autonomous bus is here. Autonomous buses with self-driving transport technology at last!
Some of the benefits of self-driving buses, according to MDPI are as follows:
They can increase traffic safety by reducing human errors and accidents.
They can reduce energy consumption by optimising speed, braking and acceleration.
They can optimise road resource allocation by using less space and avoiding congestion.
They can improve traffic accessibility by providing more frequent and reliable services to remote areas and people with mobility issues.
They can increase traffic operation efficiency by reducing labour costs and increasing productivity.
They may face software glitches that could affect their performance and reliability.
They may be vulnerable to hacking that could compromise their safety and security.
They may cause job losses for human drivers and other transport workers.
They may encounter legal and regulatory challenges that could limit their deployment and operation.
It’s fair to say that self-driving buses are a significant milestone for technology in the UK.
They are no longer a long way away from reality. The evolution of automated driving systems has been underway for quite some time now, and most modern vehicles already contain some degree of automation these days.
As technology develops, vehicles will increasingly become more and more automated that’s for sure.
Ministers hope that self-driving buses will eventually offer consumers more convenience by making journeys faster and more reliable, as well as improving safety since 88% of road collisions are currently caused by human error; and sustainability, by encouraging more people to use public transport, says The Guardian.
Transport and technology pioneers have been weighing the pros and cons of self-driving vehicles for years and here we are. Other cities are also exploring introducing driverless buses, though these are not thought to be as advanced as the project in Edinburgh.
With this being said, the UK government are doing plenty to assist with automating public transport whilst ensuring that we can still carry passengers on UK roads. We look forward to seeing the results of the scheme taking place between Fife and the Edinburgh Park train station.