First driverless bus hits the road in Manchester trial

The UK’s first full-sized autonomous bus has been trialled at a Manchester bus depot in another big step forward for the technology.

Using sensors, optical cameras and ultrasound, the driverless bus was able to manoeuvre itself around a planned path while detecting and avoiding objects.

The software used in the Manchester pilot scheme will form the basis of future autonomous trials when passengers will also be on board. Due to get underway in 2020, a fleet of five buses will use the technology for trials between Fife and Edinburgh, across the Forth Road Bridge Corridor.

It is hoped the trial could provide future benefits during passenger journeys, such as providing a warning when a cyclist or pedestrian may be in a blind spot.

The first public demonstration was part of a programme Stagecoach is developing in partnership with bus manufacturer Alexander Dennis Limited (ADL) and technology company Fusion Processing.

Existing rules mean a driver must remain on board the bus at all times during the trial, although the UK is in the process of updating its regulations.

Stagecoach chief executive Martin Griffiths, who was on hand to see the technology working first hand, said it was up to the firm to embrace technology and always look at ways of progressing.

“Stagecoach was the original transport disruptor, trying new things and breaking new ground, and that has never changed,” he added. “Our employees are the beating heart of our business and I believe that will remain the case, but the world is changing fast, particularly where new technology is involved, and it’s our job to lead the way in looking at ways to continually progress and improve our operations for the good of the many people who use our bus services every day.”

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