Blind man’s trip on self-driving bus raises hopes over future of navigational technology
A blind technology expert took a trip on the UK’s first self-driving bus as part of his work to explore new developments to aid people with sight loss.
Stuart Beveridge, head of assistive technology at the charity Seescape, travelled on the 28-mile loop from Ferrytoll Park and Ride in Fife to Edinburgh Park Transport Interchange to find out more about the autonomous navigational technology used. He was greeted by a captain from Stagecoach who explained how the self-driving bus works, and there was a safety driver on board the CAVForth AB1 service to monitor the technology.
Stuart, 37, had a keen interest in experiencing the journey as it ties in with his work to review, test, demonstrate and offer advice on navigational devices for people with visual impairments at Seescape. He is currently using and reviewing a personal mobility aid created by biped, which helps people navigate their way around and avoid obstacles using sound feedback and GPS instructions. The smart harness is worn on the shoulders and uses self-driving software from the Honda Research Institute. Stuart told how these new navigational developments have given him hope for the future due to their “unlimited” ability to assist people who are blind or have visual impairments.
Glenrothes-based Seescape, formerly Fife Society for the Blind, helps those with sight loss live more independently and provides a range of services including rehabilitation, community-based assessments, advice and support. The charity offers drop-ins and home visits to give information on the latest support and technologies available. It also provides social opportunities to people with sight loss through its groups in Glenrothes, Kirkcaldy, Cupar, and Dunfermline.
The AB1 service, operated by Stagecoach, is the first registered autonomous bus route in UK and is one of the most advanced trials of this technology in the world.
Stuart Beveridge, head of assistive technology at Seescape
“My journey on the self-driving bus was a brilliant and fascinating experience which gave me a better understanding of how this technology works. This is relevant as it links in with the work I am doing to test and review the biped device, which can assist people with navigation in their daily lives. The potential for assistive technology to transform the lives of people with visual impairments is unlimited and can ultimately support them to live more independently. I can offer advice, support and demonstrations on assistive technology to anyone with an interest at Seescape’s visual impairment hub or by visiting them at home.”
Steven Russell, innovation manager at Stagecoach Bus
"We are thrilled to learn that Stuart had an enjoyable trip on our new AB1 service. At Stagecoach, we are committed to building a transport network that is open and accessible. We are proud to offer the UK's first autonomous bus service, providing an inclusive and convenient travel experience for all.”