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Stagecoach trial the UK’s first single deck autonomous bus

The system uses multiple sensors such as radar, optical cameras and ultrasound to detect and avoid objects.

With autonomous technology advancing leaps within the automotive sector we look at the UK’s first full-sized bus with driverless technology trialled by Stagecoach, one of the UK’s biggest transport firms.

Using multiple sensors such as radar, optical cameras and ultrasound, a path was planned for the vehicle to navigate around a depot in Manchester, the technology helping to detect and avoid objects.

It is hoped this could provide future benefits during passenger journeys, such as providing a warning when a cyclist or pedestrian may be in a blind spot.

Existing rules meant that a driver had to remain on board the bus at all times during the trial, although the UK is in the process of updating its regulations around driverless vehicles.

The software used in Manchester will form the basis of another pilot scheme next year involving five autonomous buses transporting passengers between Edinburgh and Fife across the Forth Road Bridge Corridor.

The bus is being trialled at the Stagecoach depot in Sharston, Manchester (Peter Byrne/PA)
The bus is being trialled at the Stagecoach depot in Sharston, Manchester (Peter Byrne/PA)

Stagecoach chief executive Martin Griffiths said: “Stagecoach was the original transport disruptor, trying new things and breaking new ground, and that has never changed.

“This is an exciting project to trial autonomous technology on a full-sized bus for the first time in the UK. Our employees are the beating heart of our business and I believe that will remain the case, but the world is changing fast, particularly where new technology is involved, and it’s our job to lead the way in looking at ways to continually progress and improve our operations for the good of the many people who use our bus services every day.”

With any technological development there are some barriers to moving forward, the need to test and re-test areas of uncertainty, re-design elements and sometimes go back to the drawing board completely. Activities such as these could qualify any innovating UK business for government incentives. Both the R&D Tax Credit scheme and Patent Box are designed to reward companies for carrying out research and development often releasing funds that can be reinvested into the business.

Get in touch and speak to our team of experts to find out if your business could be eligible.