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UK's first self-driving bus begins trials

The system uses radar, ultrasound and optical cameras.

Trials for a full-sized autonomous bus have started at a depot in Manchester, England.

The project makes use of a single-decker vehicle that can operate autonomously within the grounds of the Sharston depot, the Stagecoach Group said in an announcement earlier this week.

Using autonomous technology, the bus can undertake maneuvers including parking and moving into a washing area.

"This is an exciting project to trial autonomous technology on a full-sized bus for the first time in the U.K.," Martin Griffiths, Stagecoach's chief executive, said in a statement.

Stagecoach has partnered with bus manufacturer Alexander Dennis Limited and technology firm Fusion Processing for the project.

The system used by the bus is Fusion Processing's CAVstar. It is made up of several sensors, including radar, ultrasound and optical cameras. Satellite navigation is also used in order to detect and avoid obstacles.

The system in the pilot vehicle will help to provide the basis for a forthcoming trial that will see five autonomous buses ferry passengers between Fife and Edinburgh, in Scotland.

Stagecoach said the buses will use a Level 4 standard of autonomy, meaning that a safety driver will need to be on board to comply with U.K. regulations.

Five "levels" of driving automation have been defined by SAE International, a global association of over 128,000 engineers. At Level 5, a vehicle's automated driving features can drive it under all conditions.

The Fusion Processing CEO, Jim Hutchinson, said that the company's CAVstar system had now been used on a range of vehicles, including two-seater electric cars and 12 meter, 43 seater buses.

The pilot in Manchester, Hutchinson added, offered a "glimpse of how future bus depots can be automated for improved safety and efficiency."

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