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Dont forget the robot revolution

  • Date: Monday 26th November 2018
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Artificial intelligence is undoubtedly taking over our world – from Amazon’s Alexa voice technology in our homes, to amazing healthcare breakthroughs, and facial recognition technology on our smartphones.

Our lives are increasingly being touched by AI and that will only continue to be the case. It will not stand still.

I still remember going to see ‘Terminator 2: Judgement Day’ in the cinema back in 1991. The film predicted a robot-led apocalypse for mankind that was set to take place in the not-so-distant future of 1997. ‘Judgement Day’ came and went without so much as a whimper.

Many people have laughed at this since, but a paranoid hangover has remained in the collective psyche – can we really trust robots? Will they get to such a point of advancement where they can make their own decisions and dispense with us altogether?

Well, here in 2018, there isn’t much to fear. In fact, more than ever, we’re encouraging artificial intelligence to be self-regulating.

With that in mind, I was fascinated to see Scotland’s first self-driving bus trial will be running between Fife and Edinburgh next year.

The pilot will involve five autonomous single decker buses travelling across the Forth Road Bridge.

While a driver will still be required to be present on the bus during the trial as a back-up for passenger safety and to comply with UK legislation, it’s a firm step towards a driverless future.

Funding of £4.35m has already been awarded by the UK government for the project, which aims to be operational in 2021, and additional resource has been provided by operators Stagecoach, Transport Scotland, bus manufacturer Alexander Dennis, Fusion Processing Ltd, and ESP Group.

They’re all right to get involved in the early stages of what is sure to be an exciting step towards a more sweeping evolution. It’s also set to be very lucrative, with Jesse Norman, the minister for the future of mobility believing that the UK market for connected and autonomous vehicles is forecast to be worth up to £52bn by 2035.

For those who might be a little concerned by this development, it’s important to stress that the bus will initially only perform autonomous manoeuvres within a depot environment, including parking and moving to the fuelling station and bus wash.

It will also be baby steps for the buses once fully operational, which is expected to be in 2021 – the service will carrying up to 42 passengers 14 miles across the Forth Bridge to Edinburgh Park train and tram interchange, so a fairly uncomplicated route.

The service will also be able to provide up to 10,000 journeys a week across the bridge thanks to the conversion of five single-decker buses from manually driven to autonomous.

The Forth Bridge announcement was accompanied by news of self-driving taxis being introduced to four boroughs, but it’s great to see Scotland really leading the way with driverless bus services.

The scheme will be led by Fusion Processing, a technology company which specialises in sensors and control systems.

It’s important to note that not every driverless bus trial has worked. In October, the operator of a Florida bus service for school children was ordered to cease the driverless shuttle as it was thought it was “unlawful” and could put youngsters at “inappropriate” risk.

Nevertheless, efforts to introduce driverless buses and cars in Stockholm have been embraced by innovation-minded Swedes, and such schemes appear to be a major part of the city’s future transport network. Australia is also stealing a march with bus trials in the likes of Sydney and Adelaide, while Korea is also keen to get ahead of the pack.

Whatever your take on it, such services will surely become the norm globally once the technology has become refined enough to deal with all potential situations on the road.

I’m proud to say that we in Scotland are bravely going Forth with our own ground breaking project.



Lager lovers can rejoice as this week saw Tennent’s new visitor centre open in the East end of Glasgow.

The well-loved brand opened its doors, to what they hope will be ‘the UK’s biggest beer attraction’, on Thursday 22 November.

The Tennent's Story experience at Wellpark Brewery will tell visitors of the company’s 130-year history beginning in 1885 with the story of how entrepreneur High Tennent launched the brand.

It’s great news as tourism bosses believe that the new attraction will help the city meet its goal of attracting one million extra visitors by 2023.

Glasgow should be proud of its current visitor offering with over two million tourists heading to the Scottish city every year, but the plan in place will see even further growth.

If we do achieve one million more leisure tourism visits in the next five years then Glasgow will benefit from an expected £771 million windfall and creation of 6,600 additional jobs.

Currently visitors to Scotland spend about £1 billion every year on food and drink but Tennent’s bosses are hoping the investment at the existing Wellpark brewery site will help inspire an increase in these numbers.

Thanks to the growing popularity of ‘alcohol tourism’, brands such as Tennent’s have been able to cash in on tourists with the introduction of distillery tours and packages.

Scottish whisky distilleries in particular have proved hugely successful with tourists, with three out of five visitors to Scotland going a to a distillery while visiting the country.

The goal of welcoming one million more people to the city seems out of reach at the moment but thanks to new tourist attractions like the Tennent’s experience and the success of our many distilleries across the country, it’s closer than we think.



The news that Still Game will air on Scotland’s new BBC channel is bittersweet.

It is exciting that we are getting a taste of what’s to come on the new multi-million pound channel. However, it will be the Scots comedy institution’s very final series.

On the 24 February, viewers across Scotland will tune into Greg Hemphill and Ford Kiernan’s opening chapter in the closing of the book that is Still Game.

It’s welcome news as so far all we know about the new digital, Scottish-focused channel is that it will premier new comedy and drama shows daily from 7pm until midnight, as well as a news offering every evening.

The countdown to Scotland’s newest channel and biggest TV show is now on.



I am frankly thrilled that the phenomenon that is Black Friday is now over.

The US-inspired event which Scottish shoppers have embraced will finish today on what is known as Cyber Monday.

Retailers are expecting a pre-Christmas boost in sales which can only be a good thing for our economy – but consumers need to be careful.

Consumer group Which? released figures stating that nearly nine in 10 ‘deals’ available on Black Friday last year had been even cheaper at other times of year.

Shoppers should be on their guard as it’s the perfect time for retailers to take advantage by advertising offers and sales which aren’t great deals at all.

Always shop around before committing to that ‘bargain’ purchase.







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