The UK’s first electric, autonomous bus service goes into operation today (Monday) at Oxfordshire’s Milton Park.

It will be the first time people are able travel on an electric, autonomous public vehicle on public roads in this country.

The bus will operate from Didcot Parkway Station, transporting workers to the park 2.3 miles away on a dedicated autonomous route. A qualified ‘safety driver’ will be on board and able to take control of the vehicle, if required.

Today’s launch is the second phase of a trial which started earlier this year – itself a UK first in the future of sustainable transport. It will allow residents and 9,000 employees spanning Milton Park’s 270 companies to travel free.

Operated by First Bus and running every 40 minutes (7am to 6.30pm, Monday to Saturday) the service will follow a specific route between Milton Park and the station, stopping at a number of points on the park including the Bee House, the Innovation Centre and the Milton Feast street food market area.

The Mi-Link 15-seat minibus uses Fusion Processing Ltd’s CAVstar® automated drive system. It has a  range of sensors including radar, LiDAR and AI to control steering, acceleration and braking without the need for human intervention.

The new service is funded through the Department for Transport’s Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV) via Innovate UK and is the culmination of a five-year consortium partnership between First Bus, Fusion Processing, Oxfordshire County Council, University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) and Zipabout, with Milton Park as host location.

Passengers can receive real-time updates on the service’s operation times by scanning the QR code at bus stops at Didcot Parkway and Milton Park, or by visiting the online Zipabout journey planner.

Veronica Reynolds, sustainability and community manager at Milton Park, said: “The Mi-Link project, which also includes a fleet of free electric hire bikes, is intended to reduce the amount of car trips that occur within Milton Park.

“This trial service is set to complement the 4,400 existing bus journeys that are taken weekly between the park and Didcot Parkway train station. This is in addition to the park’s rising levels of bus passengers which have almost doubled since 2019, with single occupancy car usage falling by 12 per cent since 2021.

“As an innovation community committed to increasing the accessibility of sustainable travel, we’re thrilled that Milton Park was selected as the host location for the Mi-Link project and can’t wait to see the full results of these landmark trials later in the year.”

Philip Campbell, commercial director at MEPC Milton Park, said: “Milton Park is well known as an innovation and technology cluster, and through the Mi-Link project and drone delivery trials last year, we are proud to be a test bed for emerging technologies in transport.

“Those visiting the Park will be able to take an electric train from London to Didcot, utilise pioneering electric autonomous bus travel, before seeing game-changing breakthroughs happening day-in-day-out from the park’s occupiers.”

During their journey, passengers may be asked to fill in a survey as part of the research being carried out by UWE to better understand people’s experiences of the new travel options.

Passengers with a Milton Park subsidised bus pass can also aid the UWE research by tapping on and off with their pass to record usage levels.


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