Autonomous buses across the Forth will be open to fare-paying customers in mid-2020

The CAVForth Project will open up to fare-paying customers in the second half of 2020.

The autonomous bus, being trialled in a depot in Manchester
The autonomous bus, being trialled in a depot in Manchester

Bus travellers will be able to travel across the Forth on fully autonomous buses as soon as mid-2020 if a government scheme stays on time.

Project CAVForth, which was part funded by the government's Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles department, will see a fleet of Stagecoach-operated buses travel from Fife to Edinburgh autonomously.

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Plans for the bus service to began operating with fare-paying passengers are still on target, with fare-paying passengers expected to be using the buses as early as the second half of 2020.

The autonomous bus, being trialled in a depot in Manchester.

The single deck buses, built by Alexander Dennis Ltd who also provided the new 'superbuses' for Lothian, will travel mostly on the motorway controlled by Transport Scotland and will cross the Forth Road Bridge.

Services will run for 14 miles between Ferrytoll Park and Ride in Fife and Edinburgh Park for the duration of the trial of the technology and will be able to travel at speeds of up to 50mph, all while negotiating junctions, bus stops and other road users.

The £6.1m project has involved government, universities and private companies throughout its development and will be Europe's first full-size self-driving bus service once it is operational.

Project CAVForth also includes tech firm Fusion Processing, along with Edinburgh Napier University and Bristol Robotics Laboratory.

'Scotland can play a key role'

Plans for the development of autonomous technology were revealed by the Scottish Government with their CAV Roadmap.

The document sets out a vision for how Scotland can benefit from such technology.

Cabinet secretary for transport, Michael Matheson, said he hopes Scotland will be at the forefront of the development of the technology.

He said: “I am delighted to launch the CAV Roadmap and deliver one of the key commitments from our Programme for Government.

“It sets out how Scotland can play a key role in this fast-moving industry, as well as the steps we need to take to unlock these opportunities.

“I intend Scotland to be at the forefront of these technologies. We are ‘open for business’ to test, demonstrate and pilot autonomous vehicle trials.

“The deployment of connected and automated vehicles has the potential to bring transformative change to peoples’ lives - not just in how we travel, but in how we work, where we live, the environment, and safety.”

A demonstration of how the autonomous bus will work was shown to the public in November 2019, with trials with passengers already taking place.

Once in service, the buses will operate with a driver for safety reasons.