A DRIVERLESS bus service will be on Dunfermline's city centre streets after the initiative received a funding boost from the UK Government.

The trial – which, as the Press reported last month, saw 22 volunteer passengers travel from the Ferrytoll Park and Ride over the Forth Road Bridge to Edinburgh – will now cover a longer route, serving the city centre.

The funding will allow the route over the road bridge to be extended to Dunfermline city centre, a total distance of nearly 20 miles.

Stagecoach – who plan to launch the driverless service in the spring – says the additional section of the route will take in more complex autonomous driving scenarios on busy category A and B roads, mixing with city centre traffic and making it more comparable with express-style bus routes.

It comes after grants were given to seven successful autonomous projects across the country, forming the most advanced set of commercial, self-driving passenger and freight operations anywhere in the world.

This CAVForth 2 project will test and refine the commercial service model, from the current 'Captained' service, with a staff member onboard, to future deployments with smaller vehicles which could operate with no staff on board.

Carla Stockton-Jones, UK managing director of Stagecoach, said: “We’re very proud to be pioneers of this technology with our plans to roll out the UK’s first full-sized autonomous bus service in Scotland in the spring.

“The government funding announced today means that we can build further on this achievement by trialling exciting new autonomous projects with our partners in Cambridge and Sunderland, and at the same time advancing the technology as we extend our Scottish bus trial to cover a longer route.

“We look forward to working with our partners across the country to roll out these new projects which will help ensure that the UK remains firmly on the map for its advancements in autonomous technology.”

Announcing the funding, business secretary Grant Shapps said: “In just a few years’ time, the business of self-driving vehicles could add tens of billions to our economy and create tens of thousands of jobs across the UK. This is a massive opportunity to drive forward our priority to grow the economy, which we are determined to seize.

“The support we are providing today will help our transport and technology pioneers steal a march on the global competition, by turning their bright ideas into market-ready products sooner than anyone else.”

Transport secretary Mark Harper said self-driving vehicles – including buses – would transform people’s everyday lives and make it easier to get around, access vital services and improve regional connectivity.

“We’re supporting and investing in the safe rollout of this incredible technology to help maximise its full potential, while also creating skilled jobs and boosting growth in this important sector," he added.