Stagecoach is working together with Alexander Dennis Limited (ADL) and technology company Fusion Processing. Why? To produce a single decker autonomous bus. The first full-sized driverless bus in UK. Indeed, the vehicle is based on the Enviro200 by ADL, powered with diesel.
The trial is expected to begin by the end of 2018 and will involve driverless journeys in depot, as driverless vehicles are not yet allowed to travel on public roads.
Autonomous bus in smart depot
Enviro200 in driverless version will be completely autonomous and able to operate without a driver in an off-road environment. The technology, claims a press release by Stagecoach, also delivers road safety benefits when driven in manual mode. Work on the vehicle is being carried out at ADL’s site in Guildford and the bus is expected to be ready for use by the end of this year. In the short term, the bus will be used in autonomous mode only within the depot environment, to carry out movements such as parking and moving into the fuelling station and bus wash. Using self-driving vehicles within depots more widely could help improve safety, efficiency and space utilisation within the depot. The “smart depot” where buses move in driveless mode is one of the first kind of application of autonomous bus that could become reality. Previously this year, Volvo Buses unveiled its first autonomous bus, with electric motor.
Still some time to wait for passenger service
Due to legal restrictions, the vehicle will not be used in autonomous mode in passenger service for some time. However the system can be used straight away to help improve the safety of road users. For example, when the bus is driven in manual mode, the sensor system on the bus, whilst not engaged to drive the vehicle, can still be used to provide assistance to the driver by warning of cyclists or pedestrians that may be in the blind spot or arrive unexpectedly close to the vehicle. Over time, autonomous bus technology is expected to be used more widely, including on services carrying passengers, dependent on legal developments.
Fusion Processing provide sensor system
The autonomous bus will be fitted with the CAVstar system provided by Fusion Processing. The system was utilised successfully in the UK’s largest public trial of autonomous vehicles to date, in Greenwich earlier this year, and a number of other projects. The system uses multiple sensor types, including radar, laser, camera and ultrasound, along with satellite navigation to detect and avoid objects, in all weathers, day and night, and plan an optimum path for the vehicle.
Stagecoach autonomous bus to improve safety
Stagecoach UK Bus Engineering Director Sam Greer said: “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. 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.”
Another step toward fully autonomous bus
Jim Hutchinson, ceo of Fusion Processing said: “We’re delighted Stagecoach and Alexander Dennis have selected our CAVstar product, the sensor and control system that enables autonomous vehicles. CAVstar will offer increased safety and efficiency, and will be demonstrated in the Stagecoach trials later this year.” Ken Scott, Group Engineering Director at ADL, commented, “ADL is renowned for harnessing the latest technology solutions to enhance our products and services to benefit our customers, their passengers and the wider environment. We’re excited to be working with Stagecoach and Fusion Processing on this innovative project. 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.”