Self-driving shuttle buses in Belfast Harbour from 2025 

Self-driving software specialist Oxa and commercial EV and passenger transport company eVersum collaborate on project to serve Harbour Estate Innovation District and attractions such as Titanic Belfast exhibition. 

From early 2025, Belfast Harbour will see zero-carbon, autonomous shuttles serving passengers. Each shuttle will carry up to 20 seated passengers and another 20 standing.

Photo courtesy of Oxa

The region currently receives some 3.6m visitors a year but this is expected to rise to more than 5.6m by 2035, in part due to a major investment programme. The plan is to greet these visitors with sustainable, self-driving transport funded through the £11m Harlander project, which is part-funded by Innovate UK and the Centre for Connected & Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV). 

Initially, two autonomous shuttle buses will run, though the aim is for this to a blueprint for new public transport networks across the UK. To deploy the needed new shuttle fleets at scale, Oxa software will be combined with automotive grade eVersum hardware. Each shuttle will be handled by an autonomous ‘Oxa Driver’, the name given to the high-performance software components that can be integrated into any vehicle to enable self-driving.  

The modular, customisable system can be retrofitted as a complete solution to existing vehicles. It can also be integrated into co-developed autonomy solutions, either in full or at a component level. 

In this partnership, the system will be incorporated into e-shuttles designed by eVersum for inner-city and last-mile public transport. These are mid-sized, low-floor and accessible shuttle buses that produce low levels of noise and are designed from the ground up using the latest low-emissions tech.  

Given safety concerns over self-driving vehicles, the shuttles will be tested in closed operation during the first quarter of 2025 before the service is opened to passengers. Each shuttle bus in the Belfast deployment will also have a human safety operator on board. 

Gavin Jackon, CEO of Oxa, says: ‘With eVersum, we can deploy passenger-carrying autonomous shuttle fleets almost anywhere and these flexible forms of transport will become widespread as a way of moving people and goods in a safer, more efficient and faster way. 

‘The broader rollout of self-driving vehicles is starting and shuttling can lead the way as the fastest evolving commercial arena for Oxa self-driving technology to make its mark internationally.’ 

Ben Jardine, Chief Product Officer and CEO at eVersum UK, adds: ‘We are thrilled to announce our participation in the Harlander Project, a groundbreaking initiative backed by the UK government. The project strengthens the recent partnership announced with Oxa and it will propel eVersum’s growth. 

‘We are laying the foundations for commercialising autonomous driving passenger transport across the UK and far beyond.’ 

In related news:

Self-driving bus trial in Milton Keynes

Robot ‘Line-L Richie’ makes pitch-marking Easy

Autonomous bus service into gear in Scotland


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