Self-driving vehicle pilot successful in Finland during extreme weatherLeigh Mc Gowranon May 3, 2022 at 09:38 Silicon RepublicSilicon Republic

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Finnish self-driving tech company Sensible 4 said today (3 May) it has successfully completed an autonomous driving pilot, despite facing challenging weather conditions.

The pilot aimed to see how autonomous vehicles work with public transportation networks and collect feedback from users. It was part of the EU funded SHOW project, which is investigating how autonomous vehicles could work within urban transportation networks.

Two self-driving Toyota Proace vehicles were used as feeder traffic for a tram trunk line within the city of Tampere in Finland. During the pilot exercise, the vehicles encountered extreme weather conditions such as temperatures below 20 degrees Celsius, heavy snowfalls and slippery roads.

“Of course, in Finland snowing is everyday life in the wintertime,” Sensible 4 CBO Jussi Suomela said. “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.”

The tech company said it learned how freezing rain can affect the vehicle hardware, how to adjust to alternate-side parking and how to adapt to snow ploughing tracks that are far from bus stops.

Two self-driving Toyota Proace vehicles were used during the pilot. Image: Sensible 4.

“This pilot was valuable for understanding the customer and end-user needs better, including especially the accessibility aspects,” Suomela said. “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.”

Sensible 4 said the passenger feedback was positive overall and mainly focused on improving accessibility for people with disabilities.

Mika Kulmala, project manager for Tampere, said the self-driving vehicles “ran smoothly and felt safe”, adding that he can see these types of vehicles being used in the future to compliment public transport networks for certain routes.

“We still need more testing to ensure 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,” Kulmala said.

Self-driving cars have seen advancements in leaps and bounds in recent years, while governments look further into the technology’s potential. Last month, the UK revealed planned changes to its highway code to pave the way for fully self-driving cars to hit the roads as soon as the second half of this year.

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