Autonomous Bus consortium with Roads Minister Richard Holden MP

First Bus and partners welcome Roads Minister to launch UK's first all-electric autonomous bus service at Milton Park

  • UK’s first zero emission autonomous bus service to operate at Milton Park business, science and technology park in Oxfordshire 
  • Project to launch two zero emission single-decker autonomous buses which are fully accessible to wheelchair users and prams
  • Ground-breaking technology in vehicle movement and travel planning
  • The buses will have a safety driver on board at all times during operation and have completed its first test passenger journeys over the past two weeks

The UK's first-ever zero emission autonomous bus service reached a key milestone with trials on public roads commencing today, (Monday 23 January) in Oxfordshire.

The innovative new bus service, which is fully electric, will serve Milton Park business, science and technology park near Didcot and Abingdon.

The revolutionary service will launch fully to the public at the end of the month and improve the way people move both around the park, which is home to 250 companies and 9,000 employees, and the wider Didcot region.

Part of the Mi-Link green travel programme, the Milton Park Circular service 1 is being operated by First Bus. The £4.3m project has been 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, helping drive the project which has been delivered by the consortium comprising a range of experienced and diverse organisations.

Led by First Bus, the consortium comprising Fusion Processing Ltd, Oxfordshire County Council, University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) and Zipabout with Milton Park (as the host location) has brought this ambitious five-year project to fruition.  The new 16-seat fully accessible single-decker bus has a safety driver on board at all times to provide a personalised service and information to passengers.

The project is now in its final stages having been established to demonstrate the application of autonomous vehicle technology to real-world service provision. By the time the research project completes at the end of 2023, the service will be connected with Didcot Parkway Railway station; a key Oxfordshire transport hub.

Buses Minister Richard Holden MP joined senior directors of the consortium at Milton Park and was amongst the first to travel on the autonomous bus as part of a special demonstration.

First Bus MD Janette Bell with Roads Minister Richard Holden MP
Janette Bell, Managing Director at First Bus, said:

"The launch of the UK’s first zero emission autonomous vehicle is a stellar example of how technology can support modal shift with wide partnership working between Central and Local Government, operators and local business.

“First Bus serves millions of customers in the UK, and we know that so many of our customers take the bus because they care about our planet and reducing their carbon footprint. We're excited to now be able to offer them an even greener and quieter way to travel, and we cannot wait to hear some feedback on the new buses.”

Richard Holden MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State with responsibility for roads and local transport, said: “It’s thrilling to see our £3 million investment help British firms and engineers pioneer new, exciting ideas to achieve our vision of a truly efficient and sustainable transport network.

“The launch of the UK’s first autonomous, zero-emission bus today is yet another key step towards achieving Net Zero, creating high-wage, high-skilled new jobs and opportunities while truly levelling up transport across the country.”

Innovate UK Executive Director for Net Zero, Mike Biddle, said: “The connected and automated mobility sector is of crucial importance to the UK, with the potential to deliver safer, cleaner and more efficient transport systems across a wider range of settings. This multi-connected and autonomous vehicles project, part of a wider package of government R&D funding, will deliver the research required to support the future of multi-modal passenger carrying services.”

For more information on the service please visit the Mi-link website here: 

Autonomous Bus10


Notes to editors


Key Messages

  • The consortium hopes to launch the public service in the coming weeks once testing is concluded, subject to final regulatory processes.
  • In addition to the delivery of a multi-modal ‘mobility as a service’ package for Milton Park, and electric hire bikes for local use, two autonomous buses will demonstrate the suitability of this technology for delivering local bus services before the project ends later in 2023, with routes extended to serve Didcot Parkway station.
  • The electric Mellor Orion E bus, which has been converted to autonomous operation by Fusion Processing Ltd, represents a major step forward in technology for the bus industry as this state-of-the-art bus welcomes passengers on board for the first time. It will operate within Milton Park from the new Bee House central hub to the food market area in the west of the business park. Electric buses represent a huge reduction in terms of emissions and also tackle more than just air pollution, they provide a smoother ride and are virtually silent when running, helping to create quieter, calmer, safer streets for the local area.
  • 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 within Milton Park 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 Milton Park Circular 1 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.
  • Customers can plan their journeys and track their bus and train services, as well as hiring conventional and electric bicycles, directly from the planner which also provides comprehensive walking and cycling routes.
  • Research partner UWE Bristol will undertake 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.

Partner Quotes

Cllr Duncan Enright, Oxfordshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Travel and Development Strategy, said: “Oxfordshire is at the forefront of the developments in autonomous vehicles and we, as a council, are proud to be a partner. Innovation like this has an important role to play in helping us achieve our goal of creating a net-zero transport network by 2040.”

Jim Hutchinson, CEO at Fusion Processing, said: "Our market analysis indicates that the commercial vehicle segments are where we will see autonomous vehicle technology first used in large scale deployment. Projects such as this highlight Fusion’s leadership in the automation of buses, HGVs and freight tugs, in each case offering fleet operators enhanced safety and operational efficiency.

“Combined with our ongoing work further highlights Fusion’s leadership in the automation of buses, HGVs and freight tugs, in each case offering fleet operators enhanced safety and operational efficiency.

“Powering this revolution in transport is our CAVstar automated drive system which combines a range of Radar, LiDAR and optical sensors with state-of-the-art artificial intelligence processing unit, and it can be retrofitted into any vehicle to provide SAE Level 4 autonomy.”

Philip Campbell, Commercial Director at MEPC Milton Park said: “The MultiCAV trials represent a landmark step in the future of green autonomous travel. Given the array of innovative life science and tech companies based at Milton Park, it’s fitting that the next generation of passenger transport is taking shape here.

“While the trials are of national significance, they are also an important step in encouraging people across Milton Park, Didcot and wider South Oxfordshire to travel in a more sustainable way - a critical pillar of the Park’s 2040 Vision.

“We look forward to collaborating further with the other partners to ensure these exciting trials become a blueprint for the future of sustainable public transport and connectivity.”

Daniel Chick, CTO at Zipabout, said: “The Mi-Link Circular 1 Service is an example of forward-thinking collaboration which puts passenger need first and encourages long-term sustainable transport choices.

“Passengers will receive real-time accurate unbiased information about their journeys around Milton Park, enabling them to travel seamlessly. Local authorities and operators will be able to better understand transport demand in the area through the use of data and insight, paving the way to behavioural change for mobility.”

Graham Parkhurst, Professor of Sustainable Mobility and Director of the Centre for Transport & Society, UWE Bristol commented: “Much investment in recent years has gone into developing autonomous private cars, but that approach will not solve the critical problem of the transport sector’s contribution to climate change.

“Mi-Link is a rare autonomous vehicle project focussing on buses, but powered by electricity, and I am delighted that UWE Bristol is having the chance to study these new technologies applied to a real-world service carrying members of the public.”

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 have 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

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.

Milton Park – Science and Technology Park

Home to 250 companies and over 9,000 people, Milton Park is a dynamic and vibrant business, science and technology park in Oxfordshire.


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

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.