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Sunderland to begin trial of self-driving shuttle buses

Residents of Sunderland are a step closer to enjoying driverless transport after the city took delivery of three self-driving, emission-free Aurrigo Auto-Shuttles. 

The Sunderland Advanced Mobility Shuttle initiative will see the shuttles ferrying passengers between Sunderland Interchange, Sunderland Royal Hospital, and the University of Sunderland City Campus on public roads.

A safety driver will be on each bus but the project aims to establish and showcase a secure remote supervision protocol, paving the way for future commercial use.

Following its arrival, the focus now shifts towards operator training, equipping on-board safety attendants with the necessary skills to oversee and manage autonomous operations effectively. 

Preparations are also underway to meticulously map the route, a crucial step towards creating a comprehensive and accurate map of SAMS’ operational area to ensure seamless travel experiences for passengers.

The shuttle will run along an intelligent transport corridor, enabled by 5G small cells which are being installed along the  routes.

A total of almost £42 million has been awarded to seven projects through the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV) Commercialising Connected and Automated Mobility (CAM) competition, with industry matching this amount.

The SAMS project, which is led by Sunderland City Council in partnership with Aurrigo, Stagecoach, ANGOKA Ltd, Newcastle University, Swansea University and Boldyn Networks, received from £3million from the government, matched by industry to a total £6million. 

Patrick Melia, chief executive at Sunderland City Council said: ‘As we prepare to welcome the Sunderland Advanced Mobility Shuttle to our city streets, we are embarking on an exciting journey towards a more connected and sustainable future.

‘SAMS represents a significant leap forward in our efforts to embrace innovation and improve the quality of life for our residents. We look forward to seeing the positive impact this self-driving shuttle will have on urban mobility across Sunderland.

Richard Fairchild, chief operations officer at Aurrigo, said: ‘Collaborating with technology leaders at Sunderland City Council and other project partners to develop plans into real-world solutions is a significant step forward in research for self-driving vehicles operating on public roads.

‘With the arrival of the SAMS shuttle, Sunderland is poised to emerge as a trailblazer in the realm of self-driving transportation, setting a precedent for other cities to follow in the quest for smarter, more efficient mobility solutions.’

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