News  /  Travel

UK’s first electric autonomous bus route takes to Oxfordshire roads

Published on 12 June 2023

The UK’s first ever fully electric, autonomous bus route will now connect Milton Park with Didcot Parkway train station via a 2.3-mile route on public roads.

Following a successful trial earlier this year – which marked a UK-first in the future of sustainable transport and mobility – the second phase of the extended autonomous route launched on 12 June 2023.

The second trial will allow residents and 9,000 employees from Milton Park’s 270 companies to benefit from zero-emissions travel for free.

Operated by First Bus and running every 40 minutes – from 7am to 6.30pm, Monday to Saturday – the bus will follow a dedicated route between Milton Park and the station, stopping at key locations, including the Bee House, the Innovation Centre and the Milton Feast street food market area.

Using cutting-edge technology, the Mi-Link 15-seat minibus utilises Fusion Processing Ltd’s CAVstar® Automated Drive System. The vehicle is also equipped with a range of sensors including radar, LiDAR and AI to control steering, acceleration and braking without the need for human intervention.

Funded through the UK Department for Transport’s Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV) through Innovate UK, Mi-Link is the culmination of a five-year consortium partnership between First BusFusion Processing LtdOxfordshire County CouncilUniversity of the West of England (UWE Bristol) and Zipabout, with Milton Park as the host location.

The service, which is fully accessible for wheelchair and pram users, will be overseen by a qualified safety driver, who will be on board and able to take control of the vehicle, if required.

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% 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 out a short survey as part of the research being carried out by UWE to better understand people’s experiences of the new travel options and how the new technologies can benefit the wider public.

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.

Click here for more infomation on the autonomous bus.

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