Driverless buses are coming to the UK as Stagecoach trials new vehicles

Stagecoach will trial single-decker driverless buses by the end of 2018

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Driverless buses might be hitting a town near you as soon as this year, if Stagecoach has anything to do with it. The major bus operator recently revealed plans to helm the UK’s first driverless bus.

Given the complications surrounding the transition of driverless cars into society, it only seems fitting that manufacturers would, er, put the brakes on the technology.

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However, this does not appear to be the case, with news that Stagecoach will trial the UK’s first driverless bus. The transport operator has allied with a bus manufacturer and sensor startup to debut the first autonomous bus on the UK’s streets later this year.

The bus in question is being honed by bus manufacturer Alexander Dennis in Guildford, where it is being fitted out with all the requisite technology, including a state-of-the-art sensor system. The latter device debuted earlier this year, at the UK’s largest public trial of autonomous vehicles in Greenwich.

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Meanwhile, the sensor system is dubbed the CAVstar, and was created by startup Fusion Processing. It incorporates a range of sensors, including radar, laser, camera, ultrasound and navigation. This suite of sensors will be employed to detect objects and manoeuvre around them. That’s not all: The CAVstar sensor system can be used to plan the optimal journey route, and can withstand all weather conditions around the clock.

What’s more, the sensor system could make buses safer on the road, even if there is a driver behind the wheel. So even if Stagecoach decide to pull the plug the whole autonomous buses endeavour, road safety could be improved regardless.

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For their part, executives at Stagecoach are elated, with engineering director Sam Greer singing the endeavour’s praises: “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, help transform bus travel in the future."

If you think about it, the possibilities are endless; we could see 24-hour bus journeys to remote places, without having to shell out for a non-economical driver. The argy bargys you see between London bus drivers and raucous schoolboys (“I swear, I left my oyster card at home!”) could become a thing of the past. We might even be able to free up passenger space if the driver’s cabin becomes redundant. Which, if you’ve been commuting in thirty degree heat with the flimsiest air conditioning known to man, is sounding pretty appealing right about now.

There you have it. Thanks to Stagecoach, driverless buses might just be sallying forth to a town near you.

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