First Bus has introduced an autonomous bus service at the Milton Park business, science, and technology park near Didcot and Abingdon, Oxfordshire. The service, which began on January 23, 2023, aims to enhance transportation within the park, which is home to 250 companies and 9,000 employees, as well as in the surrounding Didcot area.
The new 16-seat single-decker bus, equipped with a safety driver on board at all times, offers a personalized service and information to passengers. The electric Mellor Orion E bus, converted to autonomous operation by Fusion Processing Ltd, is fitted with Fusion Processing’s sensor and control technology, CAVstar, allowing it to operate on pre-selected public roads within Milton Park without the need for the safety driver to intervene or take control.
“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” said Janette Bell, Managing Director at First Bus.
The Milton Park Circular Service 1 is an integral part of the Mi-Link green travel program and is operated by First Bus. The project, which cost $4.3 million, was made possible by a $3 million grant from the UK Government, in partnership with the private sector. The funding was provided by the UK Department for Transport’s Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV) through Innovate UK.
The project was led by First Bus and a consortium of organizations including Fusion Processing Ltd, Oxfordshire County Council, University of the West of England (UWE Bristol), and Zipabout. Milton Park served as the host location for the project. After five years of research and development, the service is set to be connected to Didcot Parkway Railway Station, a major transportation hub in Oxfordshire, by the end of 2023.