Monday, January 30, 2023
Home Tech News The UK’s first self-driving electric bus hits the road

The UK’s first self-driving electric bus hits the road

The UK’s first all-electric autonomous passenger bus drives around Milton Park, a business and science hub near Didcot, Oxfordshire (Picture: PA)

The UK’s first self-driving electric bus service has been unveiled as part of a project to explore ‘the art of the possible’.

First Group said it will analyse how passengers, drivers, other road users and pedestrians respond to autonomous buses at a business and technology park in Oxfordshire.

The project involves two all-electric fully-autonomous vehicles on public roads.

A minibus providing a circular service transporting people around Milton Park near Didcot was demonstrated on Monday, and will begin public operations in early February.

A full-size single-decker will be added later this year for journeys between the park and Didcot Parkway railway station, which has frequent train services to and from London and Oxford.

To view this video please enable JavaScript, and consider upgrading to a web
browser that
supports HTML5
video

First Bus head of policy John Birtwistle said it is ‘only a matter of time’ before electric buses are used across the UK, but ‘the autonomous side of things is more about exploring the art of the possible’.

He told the PA news agency: ‘The technology is spreading to different forms of transport, including potential use in buses and coaches.

‘We need to explore how it works, how well accepted it is by the general public, how it works for operations, how drivers react to it, and how people who aren’t using the services react to it.’

A safety driver sits in the driver's seat of the UK's first all-electric autonomous passenger bus as it drives around Milton Park, a business and science hub near Didcot, Oxfordshire, during it's launch event. The service will be operated by First Bus in and around Milton Park. Picture date: Monday January 23, 2023. PA Photo. See PA story TRANSPORT Bus. Photo credit should read: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

A safety driver sits in the driver’s seat (Pictures: PA)

Mr Birtwistle said ‘rigorous’ testing has taken place to ensure the vehicles will ‘absolutely’ be safe.

The buses are ‘capable of coping with all the different experiences you would have from day-to-day’, he explained.

A Mellor Orion E bus, the UK's first all-electric autonomous passenger bus, at Milton Park, a business and science hub near Didcot, Oxfordshire. The service will be operated by First Bus in and around Milton Park. Picture date: Monday January 23, 2023. PA Photo. See PA story TRANSPORT Bus. Photo credit should read: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

The Mellor Orion E bus (Picture: PA)

‘They can deal with traffic signals. They can deal with roundabouts. They can deal with parked vehicles.

‘They can make all the turning manoeuvres as well as simple braking and acceleration.

‘They can wait for gaps in traffic (before pulling out).’

Despite the vehicles being fitted with autonomous technology including cameras and sensors, a trained driver will be behind the wheel to provide assistance to passengers and take control if needed.

The experience of drivers and passengers will be a key part of the project’s assessment.

A Mellor Orion E bus, the UK's first all-electric autonomous passenger bus, at Milton Park, a business and science hub near Didcot, Oxfordshire. The service will be operated by First Bus in and around Milton Park. Picture date: Monday January 23, 2023. PA Photo. See PA story TRANSPORT Bus. Photo credit should read: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

The service will be operated by First Bus in and around Milton Park (Picture: PA)

Mr Birtwistle said: ‘We want to try and understand is this (technology) something that makes the (driver’s) job easier – or does it actually make the job harder, because they’re concentrating on different things, there’s a different focus of their attention?

‘We don’t know how individual types of passengers might react to it.

‘It could be something that’s more accepted by the young, with older passengers perhaps being less keen to travel on such a vehicle.

‘There’s quite an extensive programme of research which is going to address all these issues, and give us some learning and insight for potential future deployments.’

An Autonomous Bus Stop during the launch of the UK's first all-electric autonomous passenger bus at Milton Park, a business and science hub near Didcot, Oxfordshire. The service will be operated by First Bus in and around Milton Park. Picture date: Monday January 23, 2023. PA Photo. See PA story TRANSPORT Bus. Photo credit should read: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

The bus is being financially supported by government agency Innovate UK (Picture: PA)

The service is being developed alongside partners including Oxfordshire County Council, transport information company Zipabout, Milton Park, automated vehicle systems provider Fusion Processing and the University of West England.

It is being financially supported by Government agency Innovate UK.

Last week another bus operator, Stagecoach, carried passengers on a full-size self-driving bus for the first time in the UK.

Twenty-two volunteers were taken on a journey by the diesel-powered single-decker over the Forth Road Bridge near Edinburgh as part of testing.

Public services are expected to begin in the spring.


MORE : Surveillance footage shows a ‘self-driving’ Tesla cause an 8-car pileup


MORE : Volkswagen is taking on Tesla with a brand new electric sedan

- Advertisment -

Most Popular

Manitoba boy awarded for saving 10-year-old brother from drowning

A Manitoba boy who saved his younger brother from being swept away by the Ruby River near Kenville in 2021 has been honoured by...

4 arrested after armed attempt to enter Mississauga, Ont. business, police say

Police have arrested four people, including three teenagers, after they allegedly attempted to enter a business in Mississauga, Ont., with a handgun. The local police...

France’s plan to raise pension age ‘no longer negotiable’, prime minister says

France’s prime minister insisted Sunday that the government’s plan to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64 is “no longer negotiable,” further angering...

Artist dazzles: draws maps of Canadian cities with one continuous line

For Montreal artist, Abou Dembele, art has rules. Dembele is prolific in the world of one-line art. Read more: Video of Toronto Blue Jays star Vladimir...