21.9.2021, Finland Three Nordic companies have joined forces to deliver a new autonomous public transport service North of the Arctic Circle. It is the most extensive pilot in challenging weather conditions, ever.
In February 2022 two custom-built, fully electric Toyota Proaces will hit the roads of the city of Bodø in Northern Norway. The service will be driven on public roads in mixed traffic, along a 3,6-kilometer long route in the city centre and support the public transportation system. Three of the leading AV companies in the Nordics are collaborating on the project: Norway’s Mobility Forus will operate the vehicles, using Finnish tech company Sensible 4’s all-weather self-driving software and Danish Holo’s data and supervision platform.
“Self-driving fleet operation on public streets in urban areas is challenging for any autonomous technology. Doing it in a city located above the Arctic Circle is even more challenging”, says Harri Santamala, CEO, Sensible 4.
Covering a Need
Providing reliable public service operations is vital in the harsh weather conditions of the Northern parts of the Nordics. The autonomous service in Bodø will complement the already existing public transportation system. Passengers can get on and off the autonomous shuttle bus from dedicated bus stops at the harbor, city centre, parks, and the regional hospital, where there is currently a gap in the overall service.
“The citizens of Bodø have long requested service to the public hospital. We believe that the scheduled route will provide an attractive and practical alternative to private driving for the population in general”, says Linn Terese Lohne Marken, CEO of Mobility Forus.
Parking around the city centre and in the vicinity of the hospital is also an issue for the city.
“The goal is to provide good, flexible transport solutions to the inhabitants of the region. This initiative will contribute to solving a traffic challenge in Bodø, at the same time as it reduces greenhouse gas emissions”, says Siri Vasshaug, project manager for Smarter Transport Bodø at Nordland county.
The autonomous service will be implemented as a service for citizens, but it is also important to focus on safety and stability when you introduce new technology on the streets.
“Our experience with supervising autonomous operations means that we can use our established procedures for operational stability in this project. We are happy to contribute with our knowledge, where we can increase learnings by using everyday operational data”, says Christian Bering Pedersen, CEO of Holo
Operations Starting in the Winter Months
February is the coldest month of the year in Bodø, with changing winds, an average of 11 days of snow, seven days of rain, and 6,5 hours of daylight.
“It is the first time in the world that a pilot project of autonomous technology is carried out on this scale in an Arctic climate. Bodø is known for having three seasons in one day. If this works in Bodø, it works everywhere,” Vasshaug says.
The pilot has opted for equipping Toyota Proace Electric with autonomous software to best tackle the unpredictable weather conditions of the Arctic.
“Norway is at the forefront of the development of autonomous public transportation and has become a key market for Sensible 4. This pilot is proof that our autonomous driving software truly is capable of driving in all weather conditions. We are happy to continue our collaboration with Mobility Forus and Holo in this second pilot,” says Santamala
The vehicles will operate autonomously, but in keeping with Norwegian law, there will be a safety driver on board to take over operations if necessary.
Sensible 4 Oy is a Finnish self-driving technology 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 it 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.
Mobility Forus makes transportation smarter, more accessible and more sustainable through autonomous transport solutions. The company was first to operate autonomous shuttles on Norwegian roads in 2018. Working closely with authorities, companies and the public sector, Mobility Forus drives the way forward for autonomous operations based on people’s needs for practical services.
Holo operates and implements autonomous projects across Europe to create the mobility services of the future. Holo takes responsibility for different parts of the autonomous mobility value chain, from approvals, to integrations, operations and data analysis of autonomous vehicles and drones. Holo is the most experienced operator in the Nordics with more than 80,000 kms driven autonomously on public roads.