Retail, AV Companies Developing All-Weather Autonomous Bus

A Japanese household goods retailer is joining forces with a Finnish autonomous vehicle start-up to develop a self-driving shuttle bus for all weather conditions.

MUJI and Sensible 4 are collaborating on development of the Gacha, with support from the Finnish cities of Hämeenlinna, Espoo, and Vantaa. The vehicle is being tested in “arctic Lapland conditions” to ensure its ability to function in such weather. MUJI claims the Gacha can alleviate the challenges posed to rural communities by “decreasing birthrates and aging populations” and make these areas’ lifestyles more “pleasant”.

The companies say Finland offers the “perfect environment” for AV testing, due to its laws not requiring human back-up drivers during the testing process. The companies plan to unveil a prototype of the bus in March next year, then begin final testing of it, which will consist of shuttle services being run in Hämeenlinna, Espoo, and Vantaa.

MUJI and Sensible 4 aim for the Gacha to be capable of running for over 100 kilometers before needing to stop at a rapid charging station. However, the vehicle’s projected maximum speed is only 40 kilometers per hour.


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