Electronics and Semiconductors

Testing an autonomous shuttle service in cold weather

28 January 2022
Sensible 4’s autonomous shuttle will drive in the snow and ice of Tampere, Finland and be free of charge to citizens. Source: Sensible 4

A self-driving service has begun in Finland to test autonomous vehicles in cold weather conditions including snow.

Sensible 4’s service has started in Tampere, Finland, with two Toyota Proaces using the company’s autonomous technology to transport locals as a last-mile service to the tramline. The pilot is part of Tampere’s goal of smart city development.

“Self-driving cars are an incredible opportunity for us to build a smooth, sustainable and smart city,” said Anna-Kaisa Ikonen, mayor of Tampere. “In the future, autonomous vehicles can complement public transport in many ways, for example in tram feeder traffic. The service trial will give us a lot more information about this, and hopefully, many passengers will get an exciting car ride experience.”

Ikonen said using artificial intelligence will create diverse know-how and unconventional thinking not even created yet to improve citizen’s lives.

The route

The pilot will take place over a 3.5 km long stretch with seven bus stops. The service will be free of charge and operate at speeds of about 30 km/h.

During the first week of service, snowstorms, icy rain and freezing cold temperatures of -20° were experienced to test the shuttles in these extreme conditions. Sensible 4 said the bad weather allows them to collect data and develop new autonomous driving software to help autonomous vehicles to operate on slippery roads.

“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,” said Jussi Suomela, CBO of Sensible 4. “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.”

During the first week of the trial, first time riders on autonomous vehicles said their expectations of the ride were quite like traditional transportation methods, with characteristics such as slow speeds, jerking and hard braking. All of the seven customers polled were positive about the experience and surprised about how well the vehicle detected other road users such as pedestrians and cyclists.

To contact the author of this article, email PBrown@globalspec.com

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