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Autonomous electric buses take to the roads in Didcot  

Two buses will transport some of the 9,000 employees around Milton Park.

Despite the vehicles being fitted with autonomous technology including cameras and sensors, a trained driver will be behind the wheel to provide assistance to passengers and take control if needed.

The service is being developed alongside partners including Oxfordshire County Council, transport information company Zipabout, Milton Park, automated vehicle systems provider Fusion Processing and the University of West England.

The £4.3 million project has been funded by a £3 million grant from Government agency Innovate UK.

By the time the trial is completed at the end of 2023, the service will be connected with Didcot Parkway Railway station.

                              

First Bus Managing Director Janette Bell said:

"The launch of the UK’s first zero emission autonomous vehicle is a stellar example of how technology can support modal shift with wide partnership working between local authorities, operators and local business.

“First Bus serves millions of customers in the UK, and we know that so many of our customers take the bus because they care about our planet and reducing their carbon footprint. We're excited to now be able to offer them an even greener and quieter way to travel, and we cannot wait to hear some feedback on the new buses.”

Jim Hutchinson, CEO at Fusion Processing, said: "Our market analysis indicates that the commercial vehicle segments are where we will see autonomous vehicle technology first used in large scale deployment. Projects such as this highlight Fusion’s leadership in the automation of buses, HGVs and freight tugs, in each case offering fleet operators enhanced safety and operational efficiency.

“Combined with our ongoing work further highlights Fusion’s leadership in the automation of buses, HGVs and freight tugs, in each case offering fleet operators enhanced safety and operational efficiency.

“Powering this revolution in transport is our CAVstar automated drive system which combines a range of Radar, LiDAR and optical sensors with state-of-the-art artificial intelligence processing unit, and it can be retrofitted into any vehicle to provide SAE Level 4 autonomy.”

                                      

Roads minister Richard Holden said: “Hopefully it’s going to be the start of something quite radical here in the UK.

“It’s thrilling to see our £3 million investment help British firms and engineers pioneer new, exciting ideas to achieve our vision of a truly efficient and sustainable transport network.

“The launch of the UK’s first autonomous, zero-emission bus today is yet another key step towards achieving net zero, creating high-wage, high-skilled new jobs and opportunities while truly levelling up transport across the country.”

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