Switch autonomous bus at Didcot Parkway with customer

Autonomous single-decker bus producing zero carbon emissions on UK roads for the first time

  • Only all-electric autonomous bus service in the country
  • Trial begins in September

A full-size single-decker bus with autonomous driving and producing zero carbon emissions has taken to the road in the UK for the first time.

Operated by First Bus, the Mi-Link 003 service will carry passengers between Didcot Parkway train station and Milton Park, a leading science, technology and business community in Oxfordshire, home to more than 270 companies and 9,000 employees.

The service uses a MetroCity 1080EV, manufactured by Switch in Yorkshire, and began operating yesterday (Thursday 7 September). The 28-seater bus will run every 30 minutes from 7am-6.30pm Monday to Saturday until the trial’s conclusion on Saturday 30 September.

Leading a revolution in bus travel

The autonomous drive capability is provided by Fusion Processing’s state-of-the-art CAVstar® Automated Drive System which includes an intelligent controller and high-performance processor combined with range of sensors including radar, LiDAR and cameras to control steering, acceleration and braking without the need for human intervention.

John Birtwistle, Head of Policy at First Bus and leading the MultiCAV consortium delivering the service, said: “We’re leading the way in bringing a revolutionary bus travel experience to more people and delivering this with an innovative and green approach to the future of public transport.”

This latest phase of the UK's only zero emission autonomous bus trials builds on the service operated by an all-electric Mellor Orion E minibus which began in June and ran for seven weeks, clocking up more than 3,000 miles. This followed a pilot with the smaller bus in March using a circular route within Milton Park, which is situated between Didcot and Abingdon.

Carbon emissions reduction from the pioneering use of all-electric buses in autonomous mode is one of the aims of the consortium behind this revolutionary transport programme.

A total of more than 500 trips in the previous phase saved nearly 1.5 tonnes of carbon, equivalent to that produced by a typical household over three months*.

John Birtwistle added: “The next phase in this ground-breaking bus service gives us the opportunity to show more customers the exciting possibilities afforded by combining zero emission and digital autonomous technology to provide a smarter, cleaner and quieter way to travel.”

Greener and cleaner autonomous travel

Mahesh Babu, Chief Executive Officer of Switch Mobility, expressed his enthusiasm. He said: "Switch Mobility has long been a pioneer of zero-emission urban mobility. And now as we witness the dawn of autonomous transportation in the real world, we are excited to begin trials of our new autonomous buses in partnership with First Bus.

“This collaboration will demonstrate the financial and environmental advantages deep-rooted in Switch Mobility's innovative products. Looking ahead, we are committed to shaping the future of mobility, where autonomous electric transportation becomes the norm, setting new standards and inspiring progress in the industry."

Jim Hutchinson, CEO Fusion Processing Ltd, said “This latest phase of the trial is another great milestone for us on the path towards provision of our automated systems more widely, enabling the move towards cleaner, greener and more efficient transportation.”

A safety driver is on board at all times to provide a personalised service and information to passengers.

For more information on the service please visit the Mi-Link website here: www.mi-link.uk 

*Source of carbon saving comparison https://www.carbonfootprint.com/calculator.aspx



Notes to editors

For more information, please contact Graeme Lafferty, External Communications Manager for First Bus, on 07970507432 or email Graeme.Lafferty@firstbus.co.uk


  • The bus service is part of the Mi-Link green travel programme, a £4.3m project delivered by the ‘MultiCAV’ consortium led by First Bus and part funded by a £3m grant from the UK Government alongside a commercial and private sector partnership. The UK Department for Transport’s Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV) has provided this financial support through Innovate UK.
  • The electric Switch MetroCity electric bus has been converted to autonomous operation by Fusion Processing Ltd and represents a major step forward in technology for the bus industry.
  • The bus is fitted with Fusion Processing’s ground-breaking sensor and control technology, CAVstar, that enables it to run on pre-selected public roads without the safety driver having to intervene or take control.
  • The Mi-Link journey planner, developed by Zipabout, delivers real-time travel information for all modes tailored to your individual journey and has been uniquely customised for Milton Park. It gives full details of the bus service and is a vital part of the project’s aim to encourage less individual car use by making it easy to plan and undertake sustainable journey options.
  • Research partner UWE Bristol is conducting a programme of activities in Didcot to study the experiences of passengers and drivers of the bus as well as understanding the reactions of other users of Milton Park. UWE research will use these findings as part of an assessment as to how public transport networks might change if autonomous technology is applied more widely.

First Bus

First Bus is one of the UK’s largest bus operators. Making journeys easier for our customers, we were the first national bus operator to accept contactless card payments across all of our services and our First Bus App is voted ‘best in class’ amongst UK bus operators. Our most recent investments are in new, state-of-the-art buses across our key networks.

We work proactively with our local authority partners, making a positive impact on air quality, tackling congestion and improving customer experience. We are focused on First Bus becoming a leader in the transition to a low-carbon future and are committed to operating a zero-emission bus fleet by 2035; we pledged not to purchase any new diesel buses after December 2022. We also operate the Aircoach network in Ireland. First Bus is a division of FirstGroup.

For more information on First Bus: First Bus UK News

About Switch Mobility

SWITCH Mobility is a next-generation electric bus and light commercial vehicle company with the mission to enrich lives through green mobility. A mature start-up, SWITCH was forged from the innovative EV elements of Ashok Leyland, the fourth largest bus OEM in the world, and Optare, the UK bus manufacturer with over a century of expertise in using the latest technologies in bus design. In 2014, SWITCH (then Optare) introduced the first British built, pure electric buses to London’s roads and since then has put over 400 EVs on the road, clocking up over 55 million electric kilometers in growth markets.

With dedicated teams at our sites in Warwick, Leeds, Spain and Chennai - India, as a Group, our market-leading vehicles are sold in over 46 countries around the globe and combine the best of British and Indian design, technology and engineering to create unique products. Capitalising on our demonstrable experience and proven expertise in light weight architecture, net zero carbon technologies, data analytics, software and customer service, SWITCH Mobility aims to be the commercial EV provider and employer of choice in the industry. Through its subsidiary OHM, SWITCH also offers a range of eMaas services, supporting communities in their transition to a zero-emission transport network.

To learn more about SWITCH and view current on the road vehicles and future concepts, find us at www.switchmobilityev.com and follow us on Twitter: @switchglobalev and Instagram: @switchglobalev

 About Milton Park

Milton Park is a leading science, technology and business community in Oxfordshire and one of the largest in Europe. It is a collaborative working environment and a welcoming community that fuels innovation and sustainable growth for more than 270 companies and 9,000 people.

With three million sq ft (278,709 sq m) of offices, laboratories and warehouses and a diverse range of amenities, Milton Park is in 214 acres of ownership, of which 43 acres is open and landscaped space with water shrubs, grass and trees.

Fusion Processing


Fusion Processing was founded in 2012 to design and build advanced systems for the automation of vehicles, and technology to improve vehicle safety. World leaders in automated driving systems, situational awareness and control systems technology, Fusion Processing’s products have clocked up over 2 million kilometres of service.

Innovations include CAVstar® a full level 4 capable automated drive system, and CycleEyeCMS, a mirror replacement system for buses and trucks, designed and developed in house at their Bristol, UK headquarters. With numerous vehicles taking part in technology trials and commercial operations today, Fusion is driving road safety and enabling a new generation of autonomous vehicle systems that are set to transform the automotive industry.


Zipabout transforms the journey experience, empowering passengers on any transport mode to travel with confidence thanks to the pioneering use of personalised information services. Our technology creates a unique direct relationship between transport provider and passenger, enabling the delivery of real-time information tailored to individual passenger needs, as well as incentives and rewards to encourage sustainable behavioural change. We partner with government to tackle today’s transport challenges (safety, accessibility, sustainability, demand) and provide insight into transport system demand and the ways in which people use it. For more information, visit www.zipabout.com

Centre for Transport & Society, UWE Bristol

CTS is an interdisciplinary centre of excellence in academic research on mobility, travel behaviour, transport policy analysis and technological change in the transport sector. CTS's overarching objective is to improve and promote understanding of the interlinkages between lifestyles and personal travel in the context of social, political and technological change. Our work is relevant to all modes of transport including walking. Whilst in the early years of the Centre our work focussed mainly on personal mobility, we also have growing niches of expertise in respect of freight mobility. CTS has a strong track record working in partnership with industry and the public sector, including several collaborative projects on the theme of autonomous road transport.


Oxfordshire County Council

Oxfordshire County Council is the local authority for Oxfordshire and is responsible for transport planning and policy, roads, schools, social services, the fire service, libraries, the museums services, trading standards, land use and waste management. OCC is an enabler, advisor and partner in several externally-funded connected and automated vehicle (CAV) projects having been the first local authority to name CAVs in our transport and planning policies in LTP4. As the highways authority responsible for roads, any organisations undertaking CAV trials need to engage with us, and we have streamlined this process to reduce uncertainty and assure safety. Connected and automated vehicles (CAV) trials | Oxfordshire County Council