29.10.2020, Finland During the COVID-19 pandemic, Finnish self-driving tech company Sensible 4 has almost quadrupled its staff, has run successful open road pilots and has been able to take steps towards the first commercial release of their software.
Finnish self-driving tech company Sensible 4 – known for its award-winning software that enables autonomous driving in any weather conditions – has been growing rapidly despite the fact that COVID-19 has made the circumstances challenging.
“Our A-funding round was just finished before the pandemic hit, so during the year we have had the chance to fully concentrate on growing and developing our technology”, explains Harri Santamala, the CEO of Sensible 4.
Building a Deep Tech Unicorn
The Hype in the autonomous driving industry has decreased – now left are those players that have the ability to bring the technology to market. Even though Sensible 4 has been profitable since its first year, so already three years in a row, the plan is to build a deep tech unicorn.
“Less hype has actually strengthened our position both as an employer and among the customers. It’s been a long but a really important road we’ve voyaged this year to build our base so that we can be big in the future. Our plan is to be the pioneer in the last-mile self-driving transportation scene.”
Amount of Employees Has Nearly Quadrupled During COVID-19
Sensible 4’s staff has grown from 25 employees to 94 since February, there are already 21 nationalities working in the company: It’s been forced to evolve from a two-dozen-employee garage company to an international player.
“We have been pushed to learn quickly, for example how to work remotely in different time zones. We have also been building our processes for instance in documentation and safety”, Santamala states. Normally young start-ups don’t need to consider all these things yet at this stage. He continues: “But since day one, our mindset has been to build a real business out of self-driving, and to do that, we must become global and head towards automotive requirements.”
How to Find a Bunch of Experts on Short Notice?
Founders of Sensible 4 have remarkable experience in robotics, but during the growth, one of the common questions from outside has been, how has it been possible to recruit so many professionals in such a short period of time?
“Actually our advantage is of course the well-known engineering expertise of Finland, but also the fact that there is no major automotive industry around here who would need similar expertise. Also, Finland has handled the pandemic situation really well, it’s been quite safe all the time and we have had a chance to grow and execute for example our pilots almost as planned”, Santamala praises. In addition to the high-level know-how, Finnish weather is perfect for developing autonomous technology and for testing and refining it: dark, sunny, snowy, slippery, and rainy.
Pilots Are Steps Towards the Market
In May and June Sensible 4 was able to successfully implement a pilot in the urban Pasila area at Helsinki, with and without passengers on-board. Within the next few months, there will be two pilots in Norway, testing in Finnish Lapland and next year, when the COVID-19 situation hopefully is better, autonomous cars are also heading to Dubai and Japan. The pilots are carried out for learning and development, they are increasing in complexity to a commercial launch.
“First permanent route should be in use in 2022, the same year when we are about to enter the market with our customers.”
Sensible 4 Oy is a Finnish self-driving tech company. The unique technology developed by Sensible 4 combines software and information from several different sensors, enabling vehicles to operate in all weather conditions, including snowfall and fog. At the end of February 2020, Sensible 4 secured 7 million dollars in series A funding round from Japanese investors.
The Sensible 4 technology has won multiple awards, including 1st place in the Dubai World Challenge for Self-Driving Transport 2019 competition. The Sensible 4 expertise and technology is based on research conducted by the Aalto University mobile robot research team, a pioneering endeavor in the field. The Sensible 4 team has experience in self-driving vehicles spanning 30 years.