First Bus has recently unveiled the UK’s first full-size autonomous bus as part of its ongoing Didcot project. The Switch Mobility Metrocity EV, measuring 10.8 metres, operates between Didcot Parkway railway station and the nearby Milton Park science, technology and business campus. The bus, which started operating on September 7, will run every 30 minutes from 0700 to 1830 hours, six days a week, until the trial ends on September 30. There will be a safety driver on hand. bus all the time.
This autonomous bus project builds on the successful deployment of a self-driving battery electric Mellor Orion E minibus on the same route for seven weeks in June, covering more than 3,000 miles. In March, Orion E was also deployed on a circular route within Milton Park.
The MultiCAV consortium, led by John Birtwistle, Head of Policy at First Bus, is responsible for offering this autonomous service in Didcot. Birtwistle believes that this latest phase, using the Metrocity EV, presents an opportunity to demonstrate the possibilities of combining digital and emission-free autonomous technology, offering a smarter, cleaner and quieter means of transportation.
Fusion Processing’s CAVstar automated driving system provides autonomous functionality for the Metrocity EV. This system uses various sensors, including radar, LiDAR and cameras, to control steering, acceleration and braking. Fusion Processing is also involved in the CAVForth autonomous bus project in Scotland, which currently uses diesel vehicles.
Other members of the MultiCAV consortium are Oxfordshire County Council, the University of the West of England (UWE) and Zipabout. UWE is running a program to study passenger and driver experiences of Didcot’s self-driving bus safety, as well as getting feedback from other Milton Park users. These findings will contribute to an assessment of how public transportation networks will evolve with the greater adoption of autonomous technology.