What was billed as the world’s first long-term autonomous vehicle pilot project — spanning three seasons including a harsh Article Circle winter — has successfully completed.
The project, which was sponsored by Mobility Forus, Boreal, Nordland County Municipality, Bodø Municipality and Sensible 4, was conducted in Bodø, Norway, to gather insights and data into how automated driving technology functions in harsh weather conditions.
“Bodø is often described as a city where you can experience all four seasons in one day. In that sense, we certainly got what we wished for,” said Harri Santamala, CEO of Sensible 4. “We truly want to learn from the most difficult driving conditions and whilst we’re experienced in driving in harsh Nordic conditions — Bodø was unique.”
The half-year project used two Sensible 4 automated Toyota Proace Verso electric vehicles (EVs) that drove a 3.6 km route, providing transportation options for residents by linking the local harbor with the hospital. Previously, there was no public transportation available along this route and commuters needed to be taken by taxi or car.
During the project, 1,703 passengers rode in the autonomous vehicles at about 30 km an hour and a total of 18,000 km of driving. The route took place in mixed traffic along narrow streets and limited visibility during 14 hour days.
The Toyota Proace vehicles were equipped with SAE Level 4 automation with a safety operator on board and operate in snow, heavy rain, strong winds, falling leaves, ice and more.
“The purpose behind the pilot in Bodø was to increase the knowledge and maturity among stakeholders and citizens and at the same time test the technology in our arctic climate,” said Rune Eiterjord project manager at Smarter Transport Bodø. “After our pilot, I think autonomous vehicles are expected to become more common. However, the timeline for widespread adoption is still uncertain and needs to mature, as there are many technical, regulatory, and societal challenges that must be addressed.”