A fleet of self-driving vehicles are now operating in Helsinki, Finland, in what autonomous driving software developer Sensible 4 describes as a first-of-a-kind pilot.
Three self-driving vehicles, an on-demand mobile app and a Remote Control Centre (RCC) are all part of the trial, making it possible to test “the whole self-driving value chain for the first time,” according to a news release. The goal of the pilot, which is part of the EU funded FABULOS-project, is to research the feasibilities of autonomous driving in a public transportation network.
All three vehicles are equipped with Sensible 4’s automated driving software and technology and will operate in Pasila, a busy business district that offers a complex testing environment. Pedestrians, trams, bicyclists and a train station will provide real-world situations for the vehicles to navigate.
“Self-driving fleet operations on public roads in urban areas are really demanding for any autonomous technology,” Chief Technology Officer Jari Saarinen said, according to the release. “We will learn a lot during these 50 days of the Helsinki-pilot, and this, of course, is for the benefit of our customers.”
Every vehicle plays a different role in the project. GACHA, an autonomous shuttle bus designed by MUJI, will eventually pick passengers up from bus stops on a predefined route. Users also will be able to hail the shuttle with an app on their phone. Because of the coronavirus outbreak, the pilot will begin without passengers. Once restrictions are eased, the shuttle will begin carrying passengers.
The second vehicle is an autonomous van from Dongfeng Motor Co. Ltd known as the CM7 minibus. It has been retrofitted with Sensible 4 autonomous driving software. The third vehicle, the Renault Twizy, will collect data to improve the overall experience of the software and learn from the complex traffic situations.
The RCC will receive multiple video feeds from the autonomous vehicles. While Level 4 autonomy on a pre-defined route is the goal, it may be necessary for human operators to take over at times when the vehicle isn’t able to drive autonomously. This might happen if a police officers is overseeing traffic instead of the normal traffic lights, for example.
The Sensible 4 software comes as individual modules or as a full stack. It can transform any vehicle into a self-driving vehicle that can operate 365 days a year, according to the company.
“We are looking forward to seeing the solution of Sensible 4 in real-life on the streets of Helsinki,” said Renske Martijnse-Hartikka, FABULOS project coordinator, according to the release. “The FABULOS project was initiated because we believe autonomous shared mobility can make a big contribution to a more efficient and sustainable urban mobility system. It is exciting to see if the technology is ready for wide take-up.”