27.1.2021, Finland The Finnish self-driving software company Sensible 4 has started pre-pilot preparations at Gjesdal, Norway. This includes test-drives in harsh Norwegian winter and mapping of the route with autonomous Toyota vehicles. The pilot is part of the field testing phase of the EU-funded FABULOS project.
The pilot in Gjesdal is a direct continuation of the previous autonomous driving pilot in Helsinki, in spring 2020. The Gjesdal pilot will introduce a new Toyota Proace vehicles, a new version of autonomous driving software, and new features for demand-based public transportation. There’s always a human safety driver onboard the vehicle when it’s driving.
“We have carried out our preparations in Gjesdal as planned. Vehicles are working well”, says the Sensible 4 Project Manager Aleksi Tepponen.
As the COVID-19 situation required, the Finnish staff spent the first days in Norway in quarantine before entering the public. The pilot is about to start soon, and it is planned to continue until the end of February 2021.
“A safe pilot for everyone is our number one priority”, Tepponen continues.
Steep Hills, Narrow Streets
Environmental requirements in Norway introduce steep hills, open roads, and narrow suburban streets. Currently, the pilot location at Gjesdal, near the city of Stavanger, is covered in snow. Harsh weather conditions usually pose a problem to autonomous vehicles, but not for the ones driven by Sensible 4 software. Sensible 4 autonomous driving software is the only one able to drive in all weather conditions, including snowfall.
“We are excited to start testing our software in a new kind of surroundings which we don’t have in Finland. We don’t see it causing our system any major issues. The Toyota vehicles perform well with steep hills and snowy roads”, Tepponen explains.
Also, the Remote Control Center (RCC) is built at Ålgård, in Gjesdal. The RCC plays an important role, as it will enable remote assistance and customer service to autonomous vehicles and their passengers. The RCC is also testing fleet management operations, which are needed in the future when autonomous vehicles play a major part in public transportation.
The Pilot Empowers Future Development of Autonomous Driving
In addition to the Toyota vehicles, also a small Renault Twizy based test vehicle is being used in the pilot. The pilot is being driven in collaboration with Spanish Shotl, in the FABULOS project. Sensible 4 is also working with Norwegian Mobility Forus, delivering the trained safety drivers for this pilot. The planned route is 3.3 kilometers long and it’s being driven without passengers on board, as per regulations of the Norwegian Road Authority.
“We’re happy to begin our first autonomous driving pilots abroad. Autonomous driving on open roads is an essential part of testing our software and collecting valuable data for future development.”, says Harri Santamala, CEO of Sensible 4, referring to two pilots about to begin in Norway. In addition to FABULOS pilot in Gjesdal, Sensible 4’s software is also being used near Oslo, at Ski in another pilot with public transport operator Ruter, Toyota Motor Europe, and Holo.
Two pilots starting in Norway are yet another confirmation of the country being a forerunner in safe and environmentally friendly mobility services. As there is clear, significant traction in Norway, Sensible 4 will be entering the market with a local, Norwegian subsidiary.
Sensible 4 Ltd is a Finnish self-driving tech company that has solved a major obstacle in autonomous driving, varying weather. The company develops full-stack autonomous driving software that turns any vehicle into self-driving. The unique technology combines software and information from several different sensors, enabling vehicles to operate in all weather conditions, including snowfall and fog. In 2022 Sensible 4 will launch the world’s first commercial all-weather software product, Dawn, for SAE level 4 driverless last-mile shuttles.
The founders of Sensible 4 have been developing autonomous vehicles since the ‘80s. In February 2020, Sensible 4 secured 7 million dollars in series A funding round from Japanese investors and the technology has won multiple awards, including 1st place in the Dubai World Challenge for Self-Driving Transport 2019 competition and the Finnish Engineering Prize in 2020.
FABULOS (Future Automated Bus Urban Level Operation System) is a research and development project to establish and to deliver a systemic proof-of-concept on automated last-mile public transport as part of the existing transport system of urban areas, based on the use of self-driving minibusses. The FABULOS project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program and runs until 31 March 2021. The FABULOS project has partners in Estonia, Finland, Greece, the Netherlands, Norway, and Portugal.