A fleet of three self-driving vehicles, an on-demand mobile app and a Remote Control Centre (RCC) for autonomous vehicles began operating in an upcoming first-of-a-kind pilot that started in Helsinki on April 14 2020.
One of the aims of the project is to gain experience from the complex traffic and real-world situations the pilot area offers and to test the whole self-driving value chain for the first time. A successful pilot will take the company one step closer to bringing autonomous driving technology to the mainstream. The three different driverless vehicles, all equipped with Sensible 4’s autonomous driving software and technology, will be operating on the busy streets of Pasila in Helsinki.
The new business district of Pasila, close to the centre of Helsinki offers a complex testing environment for self-driving vehicles. The heavily trafficked district provides unique opportunities to test self-driving in an area with lots of complex traffic situations such as pedestrians, bicycles, trams and one of the city’s main train stations. Usually, self-driving pilots are held in restricted safe-zone – areas that offer few issues for the vehicles as possible.
“Self-driving fleet operations on public roads in urban areas are really demanding for any autonomous technology. We will learn a lot during these 50 days of the Helsinki-pilot, and this, of course, is for the benefit of our customers,” said Jari Saarinen, Chief Technology Officer, Sensible 4.
Each car in the fleet has a different role in the project. The award-winning autonomous shuttle bus GACHA – designed by MUJI – will pick up passengers from the bus stops on the predefined route. At times, GACHA will stay dormant, and users can hail the shuttle with an application on their phones. Now, due to the current Corona outbreak, the pilot will start without passengers for safety reasons. As soon as restrictions are eased, self-driving enthusiasts will be able to try the driverless shuttle and order it with their phone.
Besides GACHA, Chinese car maker-giant Dongfeng Motor Co. Ltd. has sent one of their vans to participate in the pilot. The CM7 minibus has been retrofitted with Sensible 4 autonomous driving software and will showcase its smooth and flexible driving capabilities as part of the project.
The Finnish tech-startup has been cooperating with Swedish T-Engineering owned by Dongfeng Motor Co. Ltd. The FABULOS pilot will offer valuable information and insight to all participating companies and will further help them with their self-driving capabilities.
Sensible 4’s software comes as individual modules or as a full-stack version and is able to transform any vehicle into a self-driving one — capable of operating 365 days a year (something very few driverless cars is currently able to do).
Besides the CM7 and GACHA, a third vehicle by Sensible 4 is taking part in the operations. The Renault Twizy will collect data aimed to improve the overall experience of the software and learn from the complex traffic situations.
The Remote Control Centre or RCC is another essential part of the new pilot. There will be multiple video feeds sent from the autonomous vehicles to the remote control centre.
As Sensible 4’s technology aims for Level 4 autonomy on a predefined route, a human operator may be needed to guide the vehicle past the rare occasions of a vehicle not being able to drive autonomously. An example of such an event is a police officer overseeing the traffic instead of regular traffic lights, or a wrongly parked car on the route.
The pilot, which is part of the EU funded FABULOS-project, aims to research the feasibilities of autonomous driving in a public transportation network.
“We are looking forward to seeing the solution of Sensible 4 in real-life on the streets of Helsinki. 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,” said Renske Martijnse-Hartikka, FABULOS Project Coordinator from Forum Virium Helsinki.
During the project, passengers can order a ride with an on-demand self-driving shuttle application created by Spanish firm Shotl.