Finnish AV Pilot Claims Arctic Conditions Success

A Finnish driverless technology specialist is claiming success of proving the concept can handle extreme winter conditions of ice and snow near the Arctic Circle.

The autonomous shuttle bus service, part of the EU-funded SHOW project, has been running in Tampere, Finland, operating two Toyota Proace people carriers, automated by Sensible 4, and transporting locals as a last-mile service to a tramline.

The route is 2.2 miles long with seven bus stops. This service is free of charge to use and the speed is limited to 19mph. In the first week or operation, there were already snowstorms, icy rain and freezing cold down to -20C. Varying, even hazardous weather offers a good chance to collect data and find new aspects for developing autonomous driving software. One thing is icy slippery roads, another thing is large piles of snow and third the road maintenance.

Together with the local public transport operator Nysse there was also a test ride day for the NysseLab, Tampere region test laboratory. All seven test customers reported being positively surprised with both the experience and speed and how well the vehicle detected the other road users, like pedestrians and cyclists.

Jussi Suomela, CBO of Sensible 4, said: “These extreme winter conditions and realistic operation with real customers give us a great opportunity to find new aspects to development work and collecting data. In the end, self-driving vehicles must cope with this kind of weather as well and this is the time of the year when public transport is truly needed. Operation with end-users brings the most valuable user information, which is often impossible to design beforehand without real experience. Operation with passengers in the most difficult conditions is a challenge and source of information for us. It has been great to see that customers are happy and the vehicles have operated well.”

— Paul Myles is a seasoned automotive journalist based in Europe. Follow him on Twitter @Paulmyles_

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