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First automated heavy-duty transit bus starts journey in US

The bus is capable of steering itself without any human assistance, and is capable of positioning itself accurately for easier accessibility access.

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Robotic Research, a global bus manufacturer, announced the development of the Xcelsior AV — North America’s first fully operational automated heavy-duty transit bus.

“Automated transit buses, like the Xcelsior AV, are not just safer and greener, but more efficient,” says Alberto Lacaze, president of Robotic Research. “By optimizing rider capacity, improving traffic flow, and reducing stop-and-go accordion delays, these vehicles have the potential to not only increase the efficiency of travel for those on board, but for all vehicles on the road. Our partnership with New Flyer has resulted in a new mode of transit that brings together the latest technologies, ultimately helping to enable a safer, cleaner, more efficient, and more accessible transportation solution for the public.”

According to Robot Research, the addition of its autonomous AutoDrive technology allows the Xcelsior AV to visualise its environment, allowing it to avoid collisions with vehicles, pedestrians, and other hazards. Additionally, its automated precision docking capabilities maneuver the bus within inches of level boarding platforms, providing access to passengers with disabilities in accordance with ADA rules.

The AutoDrive automated driving system, is the eyes and brain of the AV bus, and includes ByWire drive-by-wire system, which enables automated throttle, brake, and steering. The technology is operating in first-mile/last-mile transit applications across four continents on both mixed traffic, public roadways and corporate and academic campuses.

Vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications can also enable “platooning,” where multiple buses are linked and dispatched together to accommodate more passengers at peak transit times. Vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) communications also provide links to traffic lights and crosswalk signals to smooth traffic flow.

“Our Xcelsior AV represents the anticipated future of safety in public transit and the latest leap forward for New Flyer. The technology is real and it’s here,” says Chris Stoddart, President, New Flyer and MCI. “… As standards and regulations are developed and implemented and automated buses are deployed across North America, we expect our Xcelsior AV to enable meaningful improvements in the public transit user experience, which will hopefully lead to increased ridership. Together with Robotic Research, we are leading clean, accessible, reliable mobility that’s safer for all.”

The Connecticut Department of Transportation (CTDOT) has announced that it will deploy New Flyer’s Xcelsior AV buses to serve on its CTfastrak bus rapid transit (BRT) route between New Britain and Hartford, in early 2023. The CTDOT project is funded by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) as part of its Integrated Mobility Innovation (IMI) initiative.

“We have amassed quite a team for this project,” said Dennis Solensky, Transit Administrator, CTDOT. “CTfastrak is a one-of-a-kind asset to test new technology on, and we are thrilled to put it to its best use and roll out the first automated full-sized buses in North America.”

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