A DRIVERLESS bus carrying 22 volunteer passengers has completed a successful trial journey over the Forth Road Bridge.

The UK's first full-size autonomous Stagecoach bus made the journey for the first time on Friday as part of the testing process.

The project, named CAVForth, will be the first registered service in the UK to use full-size buses and will cover a 14-mile route from the Ferrytoll Park and Ride, over the bridge, to Edinburgh Park Transport Interchange.

Once registered, the service – which is part-funded by the UK Government's Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles – will operate a frequent timetable with the capacity for around 10,000 journeys per week.

As part of the extensive testing process, Stagecoach invited a group of passengers from its Co-Design Panel to travel on the route to get feedback and share any views or improvements ahead of the full public launch of the service in the spring.

The volunteers are a diverse group of local bus-users who have agreed to help Stagecoach and its project partners design how an autonomous bus service should work.

One of the panel, Fleur, was delighted to be taking part.

"This is something I never thought I would be involved with. I've really enjoyed having the opportunity to share my opinions and bring my thoughts forward – and it's brilliant to see it come through and become this actual thing from a few drawings!" she said.

"It was quiet exciting, the thought of getting on for the first time, I wasn't worried at all about it – you wouldn't know the difference between this and a normal bus from the driving."

Minister for business, trade, tourism and enterprise Ivan McKee said it was a "hugely-significant step forward" for the CAVForth project.

“It has been really encouraging to watch the project develop through the various steps, from early testing and demonstrations through to carrying of passengers along the route for the first time," he said.

“Our trunk road network can provide a wide range of environments as a diverse testing ground, and the ground-breaking and globally-significant Project CAVForth will really help Scotland establish its credentials on the world stage.”

Louise Simpson, operations director and CAVForth lead project manager for Stagecoach, said: “We are really excited to have reached this next major milestone in our project plan to deliver the UK’s first full-sized autonomous bus, which has seen us successfully carry a group of passengers on one of the new buses.

"Until today, only project team members had been able to trial the autonomous service so it’s great that our Co-Design Panel have had this opportunity and we welcome any views they have to ensure we deliver a great, inclusive and accessible service to our customers when we launch in the spring.”