Ed­in­burgh to be most ‘driver­less’ city in the world

The Scottish Mail on Sunday - - Talk Of The Town - By Gareth Rose

ED­IN­BURGH is set to be­come the driver­less travel cap­i­tal of the world, ac­cord­ing to Scots sci­en­tists.

In a few months, more peo­ple will get to work us­ing au­to­mated ve­hi­cles than in any other city in the world, govern­ment ad­vis­ers say.

Five au­to­mated buses, now in de­vel­op­ment, are ex­pected to carry around 10,000 pas­sen­gers a week be­tween Fife and Ed­in­burgh.

The Scot­tish Science Ad­vi­sory Coun­cil (SSAC) says the coun­try must pre­pare for a boom in ro­bot­ics and smart tech­nol­ogy, which could pro­vide a much-needed boost to the econ­omy.

It had fore­cast that Ed­in­burgh would be a world leader in au­to­mated ve­hi­cles by the end of this year, although the dev­as­ta­tion wrought by coro­n­avirus is cer­tain to push that back.

How­ever, Scot­land still could be a pioneer in driver­less travel, even­tu­ally in­clud­ing cars and other ve­hi­cles. The buses, be­ing de­liv­ered by a con­sor­tium of Stage­coach, Alexan­der Den­nis, Trans­port Scot­land, Napier Uni­ver­sity, the Bris­tol Ro­bot­ics Lab­o­ra­tory, and Fu­sion Pro­cess­ing – which has pro­vided the CAVs­tar tech­nol­ogy, the ‘brains’ of the system – is part of a £6.1 mil­lion in­vest­ment. It in­cludes a 12will month ser­vice of a fleet of full-size Alexan­der Den­nis 42-seat, En­viro200 sin­gledeck buses, trav­el­ling on pub­lic roads, car­ry­ing fare­pay­ing pas­sen­gers at speeds of up to 50mph.

There will be a mem­ber of staff on board, but the buses will be fully au­to­mated.

They fea­ture sen­sors and au­to­matic in­tel­li­gence, and have to meet safety checks and other tar­gets be­fore the ve­hi­cles are rolled out even fur­ther.

Ac­cord­ing to the SSAC, this is only the be­gin­ning for an in­dus­try which is al­ready worth £2.6 bil­lion a year to the Scot­tish econ­omy.

The coun­cil’s re­port, Ro­bot­ics and Au­ton­o­mous Systems: Shap­ing the Fu­ture of Scot­land, states: ‘The im­pact of the next wave of ro­bot­ics and au­ton­o­mous systems is al­ready emerg­ing.

‘NHS Forth Valley has ded­i­cated ro­bot cor­ri­dors for trans­port­ing sup­plies, and by late 2020 more Ed­in­burgh com­muters will be trans­ported by au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cles than [in] any other global city. To en­sure that such rapidly de­vel­op­ing tech­nolo­gies will de­liver both eco­nom­i­cal and so­ci­etal ben­e­fits, a clear vi­sion of the fu­ture is now re­quired.’

Buses could just be the start of the driver­less jour­ney, with plans to ap­ply sim­i­lar tech­nol­ogy to cars.

The So­ci­ety of Mo­tor Man­u­fac­tur­ers and Traders has es­ti­mated that it could lead to an ad­di­tional 320,000 jobs across the UK.

The Scot­tish Govern­ment wants to be a trail­blazer in the de­vel­op­ment of what it calls Con­nected and Au­ton­o­mous Ve­hi­cles (CAV).

A spokesman said: ‘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.

‘We re­cently launched the CAV roadmap, one of the key com­mit­ments from our Pro­gramme for Govern­ment, which sets out how Scot­land can play a key role in this fast-mov­ing in­dus­try, as well as steps we need to take to un­lock these op­por­tu­ni­ties.

‘We in­tend Scot­land to be at the fore­front of these tech­nolo­gies. The CAV Forth bus project is a fan­tas­tic ex­am­ple of this com­mit­ment.’

‘We in­tend Scot­land to be at fore­front’

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