Self-driving technology company Sensible 4 has successfully completed an autonomous driving pilot in Tampere, Finland despite the challenging winter conditions.
The pilot started in January and lasted two and a half months. Throughout the trial, two self-driving Toyota Proace vehicles were used as a feeder for the tram line to evaluate how autonomous vehicles can be incorporated into existing public transport networks.
The self-driving pilot was part of the EU-funded SHOW project that aims to support the development of autonomous vehicles within future urban transport. The passenger feedback was mostly positive and focused on improving accessibility for people with disabilities.
“The self-driving vehicles ran smoothly and felt safe. In the future, I see these kinds of vehicles complementing the public transportation system for certain routes and amounts of passengers. We still need more testing to make sure the reliability in production use, and that the service either brings cost-saving in the areas they are being used or gives better service level to the population with the same costs.”
The vehicles were driven in extreme cold, with temperatures occasionally dropping below -20°C. At other times, temperature variation above and below zero degrees Celsius caused the road to be slippery. In addition, heavy snowfall covered the lane markings and snow ploughs created high piles of snow along the route.
The pilot demonstrated how self-driving vehicles can adapt to a snow ploughing track and adjust to alternate-side parking. The conditions also revealed how freezing rain affects the hardware.
“This pilot was valuable for understanding the customer and end-user needs better, including especially the accessibility aspects. The weather was exceptionally snowy but the software and vehicles performed well and we were able to collect important test data of the extreme conditions and experience of the challenging weather. Of course, in Finland snowing is everyday life in the wintertime. This time it reached almost an extreme level as there were piles of snow on the way and snowploughs had a hard time keeping the roads open.”
Sensible 4 will continue to operate self-driving pilots later this year in Norway, Switzerland, Japan and Germany.
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