The first all-weather autonomous-driving bus debuts in Helsinki
MUJI and Sensible 4 are planning to produce the first GACHA fleet for use on public roads in 2020 for various cities in Finland and abroad.
Credit: Justus Hirvi_Bonzu & MUJI
GACHA – the first autonomous driving bus for all weather conditions – has been launched by MUJI and Sensible 4 in Helsinki, with a view to begin public-facing operations in April.
Sensible 4 provided the technology for the vehicle, including superior positioning, navigation and obstacle detection to allow year-round autonomous driving regardless of the weather, and MUJI provided the vehicle’s design, developing the functional aesthetic and optimum user experience.
GACHA’s debut test-drive took place in front of the new Oodi Helsinki Central Library. After the preview, GACHA will begin operating for the general public in Espoo in April 2019, rolling out to Hämeenlinna, Vantaa and Helsinki later in 2019.
The companies aim for the self-driving shuttle fleets to operate as a part of the cities’ existing transportation systems in 2021, with a long-term objective of establishing partnerships with other pioneering cities around the world.
The vehicle design differentiates GACHA from similar projects, in particular the lack of a front or rear. The interior seating follows the soft rounded square shape of the bus, creating more space for passengers while the LED light belt serves as both headlights and an external communication screen. Inspiration for the design came from a toy capsule, a universal shape that embodies joy and excitement.
“The GACHA development began when the Sensible 4 team, working with the first generation of robot buses, noticed that they didn’t perform even in light rain, not to mention the typical winter conditions in Finland. Completely autonomous self-driving technology is not here yet. Most self-driving cars can operate only in ideal weather conditions and well-marked roads. This is what Sensible 4 has managed to change through repeated tests in the harsh winter conditions of the Finnish Lapland,” said Harri Santamala, CEO of Sensible 4.