A pilot to run driverless buses over the Forth Road Bridge between Edinburgh and Fife is to be launched in the not too distant future.
Bus company Stagecoach plans to begin operating the trial service in 2020. The pilot scheme will involve five single-deck buses, carrying 42 passengers, travelling 14 miles from Ferrytoll Park and Ride in Fife to the Edinburgh Park tram exchange, near the Gyle.
The autonomous buses are expected to run every 20 minutes, although a driver will remain on board during the journeys as per the law.
To begin with, the buses will be used in driverless mode within depots to carry out basic manoeuvres, such as parking and moving into the fuelling station and bus wash.
The system uses sensors such as radar and ultrasound, along with GPS, to detect and avoid objects and plan routes.
Potential benefits of autonomous buses include lower staffing costs, increased efficiency, improved safety and reduced congestion.
Scottish Government Transport Secretary Michael Matheson said: “This is a very exciting development and underlines the potential Scotland has when it comes to connected and autonomous vehicles.
“The Forth has been at the centre of engineering innovation over three centuries and it is fitting that it will be central to this next innovation in transport and our Programme for Government commitments to intelligent mobility.”
The initiative is part of a UK-wide trial of driverless vehicles, with two other pilots involving autonomous taxis taking place in London.
The Scottish bus pilot is being funded by £4.35 million of a £25 million UK Government grant aimed at making driverless technology commonplace.
Matheson added: “The deployment of these vehicles in Scotland will bring transformative changes to the way we travel and work, as well as having a positive impact on the economy, the environment and safety.”
Scottish Secretary David Mundell said: “I’m delighted that Edinburgh has been chosen as a base for this exciting project. The city is a hotbed for innovation and this £4.35 million grant is welcomed further support for Scotland’s research and technology sectors.
“The UK Government’s Modern Industrial Strategy, published last year, is investing in the UK’s future through innovation. Autonomous vehicles are just one example of that commitment to driving the UK forward.”