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Stagecoach Prepares to Trial Full-sized Buses in the UK

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【Summary】The trials will focus on improving back-end operations at public transportation sites, using a (driverless) full-sized bus. There will not be any passengers inside the shuttles when they are operating autonomously in the depots.

Michael Cheng    Aug 02, 2018 10:12 AM PT
Stagecoach Prepares to Trial Full-sized Buses in the UK

Before cities adopt autonomous buses, the fleets must first be tested extensively. In the UK, there are several trials being conducted to streamline such efforts, which would establish the application of driverless buses in urban locations.

Stagecoach, a leading Perth, Scotland and UK-based transport operator, is a company currently preparing to test autonomous buses in the country. The driverless program is designed to increase the efficiency of existing (non-public) operations. After this phase, the business and its partners will consider limited deployment along public routes.

Automating Operations in Depots

The trials will focus on improving back-end operations at public transportation sites, using a full-sized bus. At the moment, testing for the driverless buses are limited to depots. In such areas, the units will be programmed to autonomously pass through various stations, wherein maintenance and routine inspections are facilitated.

For example, self-driving buses that need fuel pass through refueling hubs. Fleets can also be scheduled for cleaning by stopping at a washing station. These activities are not conducted in public locations, which enable businesses to use autonomous technology. There will not be any passengers inside the shuttles when they are operating autonomously in the depots.

The project is very similar to Nissan's ongoing trials with autonomous, electrified Leaf units towing vehicles on a trailer inside a Japan-based automotive plant. Such programs help solidify use cases for driverless vehicles that go beyond transporting passengers safely from one location to another.

"Stagecoach has long been at the heart of innovation within the bus industry and this is an exciting trial that will deliver the UK's first fully autonomous single deck bus," said Sam Greer, Bus Engineering Director at Stagecoach UK.

"We look forward to working with our partners on this project which we believe could, in time, help improve safety and efficiency within our depots and over the longer term, help transform bus travel in the future."

Stagocoach intends to integrate driverless buses with other parts of operations when new regulations support such expansion plans and programs. In other parts of the UK, local transportation authorities are also testing autonomous buses. As part of a government-backed project, the Greenwich Automated Transport Environment has deployed self-driving shuttles in south-east London.

Fleet Partners

Stagecoach will receive help during the trials from its partners. For autonomous functionality, the buses are equipped with driverless components from the CAVstar system, which is issued and installed by by Fusion Processing. The system contains sensors, lasers, cameras and parts for satellite navigation.

The company has tapped Alexander Dennis Limited (ADL) for the full-sized bus. The unit can be driven in manual mode, as well as autonomously (without a human driver). While waiting for new autonomous-driving regulations to be released, the sensors and camera systems on the bus may boost safety on the road.

"In the first instance it will deliver real and demonstrable improvement to efficiency and safety in depots, while taking another significant step on our journey to bringing fully autonomous vehicles to market," explained Ken Scott, Group Engineering Director at ADL.

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