Greater Cambridge Partnership welcomes new partners for self-driving bus project

This article was first published on the Greater Cambridge Partnership’s website on Thursday 16 May 2024

Two new partners have come onboard Greater Cambridge Partnership’s (GCP) self-driving vehicle project, Connector.

The Connector project is a pilot scheme to bring autonomous buses to Cambridge, utilising state of the art technology to give people more options about how they travel to work, get to appointments or see friends.

Following changes to the project, Alexander Dennis Ltd, the UK’s largest bus manufacturer, and Fusion Processing Ltd, a leading provider of Automated Drive Systems, were invited to join the consortium and the first self-driving vehicle is now set to start running in late summer 2024.

The Connector consortium, led by the Greater Cambridge Partnership, also includes Gamma EnergyIPG AutomotivedRISK and Stagecoach. The project is funded by the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV) and industry partners.

The trial will start with a self-driving bus serving a route from the Madingley Road Park & Ride site around the University of Cambridge’s West Cambridge Campus and into Eddington. This is due to start welcoming passengers in late summer.

The second part of the trial will see three self-driving buses, provided by Alexander Dennis Ltd, offering services from the Trumpington Park & Ride and Babraham Park & Ride sites to the Cambridge Biomedical Campus from early 2025. Both services will run in addition to the existing public transport options in the city.

Cllr Elisa Meschini, Chair of the Greater Cambridge Partnership’s Executive Board, said: “For Cambridge to thrive now and in the future, the area needs the infrastructure and mass public transport systems to cope with the demand – autonomous vehicles are one part of this solution. It will be really exciting to see what was once considered to be fanciful science fiction to be out on our roads giving people choice in how they travel so I look forward to seeing how the pilots go.”

Andy Williams, Chair of the GCP Smart Working Group said: “It’s great to welcome Alexander Dennis Ltd and Fusion Processing to the Connector project. Their expertise and experience will play a crucial role in bringing innovative self-driving bus services to Greater Cambridge as part of this project. We’re committed to delivering safe, efficient, and important public transport solutions for people who live, work, or visit Cambridge. The inclusion of these two new partners, to an already strong consortium, allows us to move forward with confidence and deliver real benefits to our community.”

Chris Gall, Group Engineering Director for Alexander Dennis, said: “We are delighted to have been chosen to join the Connector consortium with our Enviro100AEV autonomous electric bus.

“This is a fantastic opportunity to further the development of this technology with our partners as we continue to explore use cases where autonomous buses can improve operational efficiency and add flexibility to transport networks.”

Jim Hutchinson, CEO, Fusion Processing Ltd, said: “Our CAVStar® Automated Drive System will provide the sensors, control modules and software that will allow the project vehicles to drive autonomously on the Cambridge routes, showcasing a safe and efficient new type of public transport system.”

All the self-driving buses will operate with a safety driver onboard for the duration of the trials, ensuring enhanced safety and oversight throughout the project.

The Connector project is part of the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV) Connected and Automated Mobility (CAM) programme, which aims to revolutionise public transport and passenger travel in the UK. With combined government and industry funding of £84 million for six separate projects, this initiative represents a significant step forward in the development of self-driving technologies.

For more information about the Connector project and the Greater Cambridge Partnership, please visit their website.

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