The buses, part of the CAVForth 2 project, will travel from Edinburgh to Dunfermline city centre, a 19-mile (30.5km) journey.
The passenger trials on a “longer, more challenging route” follow the success of initial trials on a shorter 14-mile (22.5km) version, which took place without passengers.
The Stagecoach buses will be fitted with CAVStar Automated Driving Systems from Fusion Processing in Bristol.
“The complex driving conditions and traffic flows found in urban areas will enable further testing and development of the buses’ Level 4 autonomous driving capability along the 19-mile route,” said Fusion Processing, which is leading the CAVForth project.
The £10.4m expansion of the UK government- and industry-funded project aims to prove how autonomous buses can improve journey times and quality of service for customers, while also reducing energy consumption and emissions.
The CAVStar technology will be fitted to a fully electric Enviro100AEV bus from consortium partner Alexander Dennis, joining the existing test fleet of five Enviro200AV diesel buses, which can carry over 10,000 passengers a week.
“We have every confidence that the next generation of our CAVStar Automated Drive System, which combines a range of radar, lidar and optical sensors with state-of-the-art artificial intelligence processing units, will be up to the task,” said Jim Hutchinson, CEO of Fusion Processing.
Driving style can have a significant effect on fuel consumption, Fusion Processing said – as much as 20%. Across a fleet of buses, that variance can result in greater operating costs as well as increased emissions and environmental impact.
The autonomous buses are designed for optimum efficiency throughout the journey, in all traffic conditions and all weather. By receiving information directly from traffic light systems, the vehicles can also plan their speed to run smoothly from one green light to the next.
“This intelligent autonomous driving reduces unnecessary braking and accelerating, delivering a smoother, more comfortable ride for passengers and contributing to less wear on brakes and tyres, with corresponding reductions in particulate emissions,” Fusion Processing said.
The autonomous technology features redundancy on all safety critical systems, the company said, along with additional redundancy built into the steering and braking systems that mean a human driver is not needed behind the wheel. As in the first passenger-free trials, however, the fleet will have safety drivers onboard to monitor the autonomous systems, together with a bus ‘captain’ who will assist passengers and answer any questions.
The project will also see entirely driver-free tests take place on a test track.
CAVForth 2 is funded by the UK government’s Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV), and project partners Fusion Processing, Alexander Dennis, Stagecoach, Transport Scotland, Edinburgh Napier University and Bristol Robotics Laboratory, UWE.
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