Scotland’s cabinet secretary Michael Matheson says the nation will take steps to spearhead the development of driverless vehicles, in a report from Transport Scotland outlining its plans to foster innovation, according to BBC News.
The “Roadmap for Scotland” report outlines steps to allow Scottish companies to distinguish themselves in the research, testing, and rollout of autonomous vehicles.
“As Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity I intend Scotland to be at the forefront of these technologies as they are developed, tested and implemented,” Matheson wrote in the report.
First, a collaboration between government, academics, and the private sector will develop a fleet of self-driving buses for a route between Edinburgh and Fife.
Next year in a world-first trial, the entire fleet will be put into passenger service, backed by £4.35 million in funding from the UK government.
The buses will initially have a human driver present, while unmanned tests continue to be carried out at depots. They will carry up to 42 passengers, and operate every 20 minutes.
The UK’s first full-size autonomous bus was tested in Glasgow in November—though autonomous buses are already operating in other parts of the world such as China.
Transport Scotland has also trialed a system of roadside beacons that can communicate with smart devices in passing vehicles, displaying information in an app. In a successful trial, they tested the transmission of data on travel time as vehicles passed each beacon.
In the report, Matheson wrote that Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CAV) offer “the potential to bring transformative change to people’s lives, not just in how we travel, but in how we work, where we live, the environment, and safety. CAV technologies also offer exciting potential for Scottish industries to be at the forefront of innovation and economic growth.”
The annual CAV Scotland conference will continue as a forum for experts to share the latest developments in the field and plan future research.
The report points out that Scotland’s diverse road system provides an ideal setting to test autonomous driving systems.
A report last year from Tech Nation showed that Scotland’s tech sector is booming, with a growing number of digital sector jobs around cities like Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Dundee. The sector is now worth £3.9 billion.
The UK government is aiming to put self-driving buses and taxis on the road by 2021, with state funding totaling £25 million.