Autonomous Buses hit the Road in the UK

The first route is running in Scotland.


Passangers getting on a bus.

(VGstockstudio /

With new advances in AI and autonomous driverless cars and trains, it makes sense that this mode of transportation could be expanded to buses too. Now a full-sized autonomous bus service is up and running in Scotland.

The buses began running in May, 2023, reported The Guardian, and are carrying passengers between Ferrytoll Park and the Edinburgh Park train and tram exchange. This 14-mile route is the first of its kind in the UK.

About the autonomous busses
The autonomous buses are being operated by Stagecoach, the largest coach operator in the UK. While the buses are autonomous, fully self-driving vehicles are not currently permitted in the UK so a driver will have to be onboard at all times.

The vehicles are required to have a safety driver to monitor the technology and a bus captain that will help passengers board and purchase tickets. The driver can take control in case of an emergency situation.

The vehicles use sensors to travel on specific routes and can  reach the top speed of 50 mph. This fleet of five busses are being trialed through 2025, according to a press release from Stagecoach.

Reaching this milestone
It took almost 10 years of research and development  and 1.8 million kilometers of practice runs to reach this milestone, which is considered the first full-size use of autonomous buses in Europe.

Scottish transport minister, Kevin Stewart, said in the press release: “It is really exciting to see the innovative and ambitious CAVForth Project take to the roads in earnest after all the hard work of the partner organizations involved in bringing this world first to Scotland. 

“We want Scotland to continue to be at the forefront in the development of connected and autonomous vehicles and the start of this live trial will really help the country establish its credentials on the world stage.” 

This project was one of six to receive funding from a joint UK government and Industry undertaking to speed up the commercialization of self-driving technology, reported The Guardian. The government hopes that the autonomous buses will be faster, more reliable, and safer to use than conventional buses since 88 percent of road accidents are caused by drivers’ errors.

Other countries in Europe are exploring using driverless buses. There have already been short trials in several cities in Italy, Finland, and France and there are plans for driverless electric minibuses to be introduced in Switzerland, Germany, and  Norway. An autonomous bus may be just around the corner in a city near you.

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