A NEW computer-driven bus set to carry passengers over the Forth Road Bridge next year has been unveiled.

Stagecoach are running the pioneering project, known as CAVForth, which will trial the first-full sized, autonomous, buses running on UK roads for the first time next year.

The new service will be made up of four single-decker buses running a 14-mile route, including crossing the road bridge.

It will provide capacity for up to 10,000 passengers a week, connecting Fife’s Ferrytoll Park & Ride with Edinburgh Park’s transport hub and the operator is hoping it will be popular with commuters, students, day-trippers, tourists and novelty riders – keen to be first to say they have been driven by a computer.

The four buses, which will feature special new livery, are currently being fitted out with groundbreaking sensor and control technology, developed and supplied by project lead, Fusion Processing Ltd, that allows them to become computer-driven.

The vehicles are also being put through their paces with an array of virtual and track testing to ensure all systems are functioning as expected before on-road testing begins later this year.

Stagecoach say the colours and design were chosen through consultation with local communities and a decision made to ensure the vehicles stand out on the road.

The ‘AB’ logo, stands for 'Autonomous Bus' and is an icon that Stagecoach hopes to see become a standard identifier of autonomous vehicles in the future.

The design is intended to ensure that it still feels like a regular bus, and is easily identifiable with Stagecoach, while also acknowledging the array of project partners who are making this world-leading pilot service a reality, including Fusion Processing, Alexander Dennis Limited (ADL), Transport Scotland, Napier University, Bristol Robotics Lab, University of the West of England, as well the funding partner; the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles.

Minister for Transport Graeme Dey said: “This is another welcome step forward for the incredibly exciting Project CAVForth, as we move closer to seeing it go live next year.

"This type of innovation shows Scotland is very much open for business when it comes to trialling this technology. This ground-breaking and globally significant project will really help the country establish its credentials on the world stage.”

Sam Greer, regional director for Stagecoach in Scotland, said: “We are all very excited to be marking the next major milestone in our autonomous bus project, with buses planned to be on the road in early summer next year.

“The new service will provide a bus link between Fife and Edinburgh Park which currently does not exist and we hope will encourage more people to ditch the car, skip traffic jams and enjoy a relaxed journey in a dedicated bus lane and with new, innovative, state-of-the-art technology.”

Jim Hutchinson, Fusion Processing Ltd CEO, said: “We are delighted to be leading on the world’s most complex and ambitious autonomous vehicle programme. CAVForth is an exciting pilot service and a great demonstration of our automated vehicle technology.

"The vehicles are fitted with CAVstar, our automated driving system which combines our own hardware and software to create safe, AV Level 4 full-sized buses.

"The buses will be operating on a 28-mile round trip route that includes motorways, single-carriageway A-roads, minor roads, bus lanes, roundabouts and junctions with and without traffic lights. We believe it will be the most comprehensive autonomous bus demonstration to date.”

Paul Davies, ADL president and managing director, said: “As the UK bus industry’s innovation leader, we are constantly exploring new ways to further increase efficiency and safety.

"The trial of the UK’s first full-sized autonomous bus service gives us an outstanding opportunity to gain real-world experience. We are also working closely with our colleagues across NFI Group who are developing similar, promising projects.”