The UK buckles up for driverless buses
It seems like every week there is a new headline about the progress of a driverless future. From stories citing how the new technology will improve road congestion and productivity, to damning accounts of deaths caused by the world’s first autonomous vehicles – news outlets love to feature stories about technological advances, good and bad.
But amongst all the noise there seems to be little news on the technology actually being used on a day-to-day basis. That is, until UK transport operator Stagecoach this week announced that it will be rolling out driverless buses in the UK as soon as the end of the year.
Stagecoach plans to build a fully autonomous single-decker bus in joint venture with Alexander Dennis Limited (ADL) and award-winning tech company Fusion Processing. The announcement is a landmark step for automated vehicles in the UK and follows in the footsteps of other nations like China and France who have so far been leading the race to automation.
Stagecoach UK bus engineering director, Sam Greer, commented: “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, and help transform bus travel in the future.”
The only catch? Until laws surrounding the commercial use of driverless vehicles on the road are lifted, the buses will solely be used in Stagecoach depots to carry out menial jobs like parking, refilling fuel and washing.
So once again it seems like the headlines surrounding driverless vehicles are all mouth and no trousers. Whilst Stagecoach intends to get the technology ready for when laws are lifted allowing for passenger driven driverless buses, it is yet to be seen when this will happen. And with four deaths so far chalked up to driverless cars it might just be a good thing…