Solihull buses: Driverless bus trials get underway in Solihull - and you can join them

Solihull Council follows Cambridge in trialling a driverless bus - see how you can hop on board at the NEC

Driverless buses are being road tested in Solihull in another radical transport scheme being considered by West Midlands councils.

If successful the council is looking to integrate the buses into the borough’s transport network, so you could be able to catch one to do your shopping or visit friends.

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Solihull has become one of the first places in the UK to road test driverless buses. Trials in Cambridge in May have been hailed a success.

The council say the trials are part of a series of measures they are looking at to imporove air quality.

The driverless buses are called Connected Autonomous Vehicles (CAVs).

Solihull Council has become the first local authority in the country to buy one from Coventry-based Aurrigo - with the £250,000 funding from Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership

The trials are taking place at the NEC over the next few weeks.

The Solihull tests come as radical plans to restrict the use of cars in Birmingham city centre were unveiled by the city council.

The council say these plans will rely on buses being able to transport people around the city.

Birmingham is bidding for funding for 200 hydrogen buses to use in the city which it believes will improve air quality.

From left: Councillor Ken Hawkins, Cabinet Portfolio Holder for Environment & Infrastructure at Solihull Council, Gary Masters, NEC Campus General Manager, Chris Lane, Head of Transport Innovation at TfWM and Ewa Truchanowicz, GBSLEP Board Director

How do the driverless buses work in Solihull?

The shuttle can carry up to eight passengers and uses a suite of sensors to understand its surroundings, allowing it to move around safely, interacting with live traffic with little or no operator input.

For the purposes of the trial, in line with current UK legislation, a safety operator will be on-board at all times, who will have the ability to take control of the shuttle if required.

The trial at the NEC -which is part of the wider UK Central investment programme being funded by the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) - will see the shuttle operate autonomously along a one mile pre-mapped section of Pendigo Way between Hall 5 and Resorts World.

The route that the driverless bus will take around the NEC

How you can take part in the driverless bus trials in Solihull

It’s free to take part in the driverless bus trial and there are 14 journeys you can join on the October 13, 14, 20 and 21.

Those behind the project are encouraging anyone who wants to take part and experience one of the first fully self-driving shuttles in the UK to book ride. You can check availability and book your ride here.

The success of this initial trial will provide knowledge and experience of self-driving vehicles in a real-world environment, meaning they could be rolled-out elsewhere in Solihull in the future.

West Midlands Mayor Andy Street outlines the Combined Authority’s Natural Environment Plan

What the politicians say about the driverless bus trials in Solihull

Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands and chair of the WMCA, said: “The region is at the cutting edge of the development of CAV technology and this real world trial offers an excellent opportunity to understand the role autonomous vehicles can play in our transport system.

“This technology has the potential to change the way we travel and will no doubt become a key part of our future transport system. On top of that, this emerging high-value sector in research and manufacturing is already playing an increasingly important role in the Green Industrial Revolution happening right here in the West Midlands.”

Cllr Ken Hawkins, cabinet portfolio holder for environment & infrastructure, said: “CAV technology has the potential revolutionise the way we get around our towns, cities and rural areas as well as transport goods.

“This trial is all about looking at how we can practically and safely start to incorporate autonomous vehicles into our future transport infrastructure. Already one of the best connected destinations in the UK and Europe, the NEC is the perfect place to trial our shuttle and look at how it can be used to improve the first and last mile passenger experience.

“Alongside the obvious environmental benefits, this is an excellent example of how smart technology could be used to cut congestion and improve public transport.

“The results of our trials will provide learning on future mobility services and highway infrastructure design across all future development sites within Solihull and the wider region, including integration with the HS2 Interchange at Arden Cross.”

Ewa Truchanowicz, Board Director, Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership (GBSLEP), said: “It’s fantastic to see the fully electric autonomous vehicle operating at the NEC. We allocated £250,000 from our Local Growth Fund into this Solihull Council-led trial as we recognise the huge potential for Connected Autonomous Vehicles (CAVs).

“This is one element of our wider GBSLEP vision to deliver clean growth across our region. By reducing CO2 emissions and reducing congestion through shared occupancy, CAVs will have an impact on the way we all travel in the future. I would encourage people to take part and experience one of the first fully self-driving shuttles in the UK.”

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