At present, most self-driving vehicles are limited to working under relatively strict conditions and locations; most AV & # 39; s need good weather and well-marked roads. But an autonomous vehicle that will hit the road in Finland this week is designed to drive everywhere and under all conditions.
It is called Gacha, built by the Finnish vehicle manufacturer Sensible 4, which focuses on self-driving car software for use in all weather conditions. According to Espoo, the company based in Finland, Gacha is the first autonomous minibus that can navigate both in city streets and in small, unmarked suburbs under all conceivable weather and light conditions. The vehicle now works within Espoo, which saw snow fall on 43 days in January and February.
Gacha is made with the help of the Japanese design house Muji and the shape is inspired by the kind of surprise toys you can get from Kinder Eggs or vending machines. The minibus is designed to follow pre-planned routes as if they were on rails, and always keeps an eye out for car and pedestrian traffic. But those routes are not fixed. The bus can change the route based on user requests. For example, a person who lives half a mile from a route can request to jump on the bus in an app. Gacha then optimizes its route to get past that person's door and sends a warning so that the passenger can be out just in time. That is a crucial characteristic for coming up with a rational and convenient public transport system based on autonomous vehicles. It also makes it possible to serve suburban areas that extend over larger territories outside your typical city bus route.
[Photo: Justus Hirvi/Bonzu & Muji]
It is a crucial feature for places with extreme cold, rain or snow, and an important raison d & # 39; être for Gacha, which is designed for bad weather. That is probably why the Finnish transport authorities and partner cities Espoo, Vanya and Hämeenlinna are enthusiastic about the tests, as Sensomic & # 39; s chief operations officer Tommi Rimpiläinen tells me by email. "The authorities have given us a license to drive autonomously on all public roads in Finland," says Rimpiläinen. "They also supported our extreme testing on arctic conditions by offering smart road infrastructure for self-driving vehicles in Lapland," referring to E8, a connected road corridor in Northern Finland that is used to run AV's and other smart infrastructure in extreme conditions by many to test. European mobility companies.
Rimpiläinen says that although the Gacha project was a challenge – especially since they worked with Muji to rebuild the vehicle in just over a year – they were aware of the challenges and were satisfied with the result. After testing in Espoo, the company plans to roll out Gacha in Hämeenlinna, Vantaa and Helsinki this year.