UK’s first driverless electric bus opens to public in Oxfordshire

Members of the travelling public in Oxfordshire can now take a free ride on the UK’s first self-driving electric bus service at Milton Park science park.

The current route shuttles passengers around the site near Didcot which is home to 250 companies and 9,000 employees.

It runs from the Park’s flexible workspace, the Bee House, to its street food market Milton Feast via stops on Western Avenue and Innovation Drive, reports the Oxford Mail.

From this week it will run every 15 minutes between 7am to 6.30pm Monday to Saturday.

Journeys further afield to Didcot Parkway train station are expected to launch later in the year.

The service, operated by First Bus, is a 15-seat, single decker minibus and is fully accessible for wheelchair and pushchair users.

A qualified safety driver is on board the bus at all times, able to take control of the vehicle, if required.

A new kind of journey planner – the Mi-Link journey planner developed by Zipabout – has been customised for Milton Park.

It provides real-time updates on the service’s operation times using everyday apps including WhatsApp and SMS, the first of its kind to do so.

Each bus stop provides details of the route and a QR code to scan for live updates.

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

After their journey, passengers may be asked to complete a short survey online or be approached in person by one of the University of the West of England (UWE) project team for their views.

The aim of the research is to understand people’s experience of the new travel options and how the new technologies can benefit the wider public.

The launch of the new autonomous bus service follows the project’s successful demonstration day in January attended by local business and political leaders, occupiers, Buses Minister Richard Holden MP and the project’s consortium partners.

John Birtwistle, Head of Policy at First Bus, said: “Today is a landmark for public transport in this country. This service brings together technologies in zero emission bus design, vehicle movement and travel planning to create a new experience.”

Cllr Duncan Enright, Oxfordshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Travel and Development Strategy, said: “Oxfordshire is at the forefront of the developments in autonomous vehicles and we, as a council, are proud to be a partner.

“Innovation like this has an important role to play in helping us achieve our goal of creating a net-zero transport network by 2040.”

Professor Graham Parkhurst, UWE project lead, added: “We are delighted to have the opportunity to explore with people what they think and feel about using the new transport technologies at Milton Park.

“The information will advance our research on how to travel more sustainably, both at Milton Park and at similar locations across the country.”


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