EUROPE’S first, full-sized driverless bus, using technology that will be used as part of a trial scheduled to take place across the River Forth next year, has been unveiled at a major summit in Glasgow.

The demonstration of the Alexander Dennis Enviro200 bus was part of the Connected and Autonomous Vehicles Summit (CAV Scotland) at the SECC in Glasgow, which also offered journalists and guests a first-hand view of the technology and a ride in the vehicle.

Overall, the experience of sitting on the bus as it crawled around a square route, stopping at imaginary junctions and its final destination, did not differ much from a normal bus –except that it was slightly unnerving to be turning a corner and seeing the “driver” sitting with his arms folded.

The bus being demonstrated at CAV Scotland has already carried out trials at Stagecoach’s depot in Manchester in the first part of the autonomous bus project.

Stagecoach, Alexander Dennis and Fusion Processing are now working with Transport Scotland, Bristol Robotics Laboratory and Edinburgh’s Napier University on Project CAVForth, which will see five autonomous buses operating next year between Ferrytoll Park and Ride in Fife and the Edinburgh Park train and tram interchange.

Stagecoach East Scotland – which will operate the buses – will offer a service that can carry up to 42 passengers the 14 miles across the bridge, with the capacity for up to 10,000 passengers a week.

They will operate with a driver on board during any journey, in line with UK regulations.

Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity Secretary, Michael Matheson, said: “Just last year we were talking about the concept of operating autonomous buses across the Forth Bridge … by this time next year, we expect to see them operating from Fife into Edinburgh.

“The pace at which this technology is developing is very significant and this type of project is also an opportunity to demonstrate the innovations taking place in the industry and also the potential benefits to our public transport system.

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“It’s right to consider that Scotland is a unique place where you can actually test this technology. You can go from using our transport trunk network through to using single-track roads, where there won’t be congestion, or if there is congestion it’ll be sheep on the road.

“Our trunk road network can provide a wide range of environments as a diverse testing ground, and the ground-breaking and globally significant Project CAVForth will really help Scotland establish its credentials on the world stage.”

Martin Griffiths, Stagecoach Group chief executive, added: “Stagecoach has always been at the forefront of innovation and we have a strong and successful track record in harnessing new technology to launch new products and break new ground.”