'World's first' self-driving bus being trialed in Scotland

ITV News Scotland reporter Louise Scott takes a ride on a self-driving bus - with a safety driver on hand while the trials take bus

There are self-driving cars, trains and now it’s the turn of buses.

In a world first, a trial is underway in Edinburgh with an autonomous bus taking passengers across the Forth Road Bridge in a viable service route.

The 14-mile stretch will be 90% self-driven and 10% by a safety driver; a regulatory precaution in place during this pilot phase.

But there’s no doubt, the future of public buses is driverless, and it may be coming to a city near you sooner than you think.

This first phase will continue until 2025, by which points it’s expected safety drivers will no longer be required.

An estimated 10,000 passengers each week will use the Edinburgh service, where data will be collected allowing for improvements to be made as well as monitoring the benefits for passengers.

Claire Doak speaking to ITV News' Louise Scott. Credit: ITV News

Claire Doak, from bus operator Stagecoach, has been training the bus drivers on the new technology.

Claire said: “The safety driver role is basically to make sure the vehicle is doing what it’s supposed to be doing. I’ve been making a joke saying I’ve been teaching people how to drive buses for the past five years and now I’m having to teach them not to drive the bus. But actually, the level of concentration they need for this is a lot more in depth.”

The technology has been researched and developed over the past ten years by Fusion Processing. Testing has been underway over the past few years and now, it’s ready to be trialled in a real-world environment.

Jim Hutchinson who is CEO of Fusion Processing, said: “The technology itself can react very fast. It’s much faster than human reactions. The sensors can obviously see much more widely than a human, they don’t have to turn their head to look, they have that instant view of everything so it’s a very safe technology.”

Five buses have been fitted with the computerised technology with the service route set to be extended to Dunfermline next year.

Automated buses on the Forth Road Bridge between Edinburgh and Fife. Credit: ITV News

So what is it like to ride on an autonomous bus?

We were given the opportunity to experience the autonomous bus in action as it drove across the Forth Road bridge.

The bus looks the same internally with a spot for the driver, handrails, stop button and seats.

There are seatbelts in case customers would like to wear one, but they are not mandatory. Once underway it was very much like any other bus journey; except for the driver removing their hands from the steering wheel to show us that the bus was in control.

That was a new experience for us all. The same jostles were felt over bumps in the road as if a human was driving.

But it was a smooth drive with the bus reacting to its surroundings the same way a car does in cruise control mode.

The route is a quieter one with minimal vehicles around. The sensors are sensitive, so it would be interesting to see how an autonomous bus will navigate a busy and narrow high street.

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