Plans by Stagecoach to trial the UK’s first driverless bus must prioritise jobs and safety the transport firm has been told.
Current legal restrictions mean the single deck bus will only be used without a driver in the depot to carry out manoeuvres such as fuelling and parking.
It will not be used in autonomous mode while passengers are onboard.
Driverless vehicle technology, however, is expected to be used more widely in future.
Unite national officer for passenger transport Bobby Morton said, “Stagecoach informed me last week about the first self-driving bus in the UK. My reaction to this news was ask the company to negotiate with Unite an agreement on new technology as a matter of urgency.
“This agreement should cover the paramount concerns of passenger and staff safety. We also want guarantees on job security moving forward – we are not ‘turkeys voting for Christmas’ and the future employment prospects of our members are a prime consideration.
“We are not against progress, but it has to be managed in a way that takes full account of safety and job concerns.”
The bus will be built by automotive manufacturers Alexander Dennis Limited using technology from Fusion Processing and is expected to be fully operational later in the year.
Stagecoach said the vehicle’s autonomous driving sensors – including radar, lazar, ultrasound and cameras – will also improve safety when a driver is in control by warning of pedestrians and bicycles that are too close to the bus or hidden in a blind spot.
Although autonomous vehicles may bring safety benefits in the future, major concerns remain about their reliability; recently a woman in Phoenix Arizona was killed after being hit by an autonomous car being trialled by the taxi firm Uber.
Stagecoach UK bus engineering director Sam Greer said, “We look forward to working with our partners on this project which we believe could, in time, help improve safety and efficiency within our depots, and over the longer term, help transform bus travel in the future.”