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MUJI and Sensible 4 to Launch GACHA, an All-Weather Autonomous-Driving Bus, in Finland

By Ken Briodagh
March 08, 2019

According to a recent announcement, Japanese lifestyle retailer MUJI and Finnish autonomous driving company Sensible 4 launched GACHA, an autonomous driving bus for all weather conditions in Helsinki, Finland with a view to begin public-facing operations in April.

While Sensible 4 provided the technology for the vehicle, including positioning, navigation and obstacle detection to allow year-round autonomous driving regardless of the weather, MUJI has 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, a significant site in the Finnish capital. After the preview, GACHA reportedly will begin operating for the general public in Espoo in April 2019, rolling out to Hämeenlinna, Vantaa and Helsinki later in 2019. MUJI and Sensible 4 are currently planning to produce the first GACHA fleet for use on public roads in 2020 for various cities in Finland and abroad. MUJI and Sensible 4 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.

Aside from its all-weather capabilities, MUJI’s design also differentiates GACHA from similar projects, in particular the vehicle’s 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.

“The GACHA development got started when Sensible 4 team, working back then with the first generation of robot buses, noticed that they just don’t perform at all 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, Sensible 4.

“Greater Helsinki is a global pioneer in offering services and creating new businesses through smart mobility solutions. There are several reasons for that. One of them being the favorable Finnish legislation for new experiments – the Finnish legislation not only allows automated vehicles to be used in public roads but also encourages the digitalization of all transport services. The recent heavy deregulation makes it easier for new types of transportation services to enter the market. In Greater Helsinki there are also several urban testbeds enabling the creation of new smart mobility solutions and the city hosts the first open mobility-as-a-service ecosystem in the world,” said Marja-Liisa Niinikoski, CEO, Helsinki Business Hub

Helsinki Business Hub has had a key role in introducing MUJI to Sensible 4. Helsinki Business Hub is the international trade and investment promotion agency whose role is to help foreign companies to set-up their business, grow and develop in Greater Helsinki.

Facts about GACHA:

  • Fullstack of autonomous driving sensors; lidars, radars, 360 deg camera vision, high precision GPS, inertia unit and control over 4GLTE/5G
  • Max speed: 40 km/h autonomous
  • Powertrain: 4WD electric
  • Range: 100+ km
  • Fast charging with wireless charging as an option
  • Dimensions: 4.5x2.4x2.8 m
  • Capacity: 10 seats, 6 standing
  • Easy access for people with limited mobility
  • Exterior displays around the vehicle for vehicle intention communicatios

Future plans of GACHA bus:

2019

  • Pilots in the Finnish cities of Espoo, Hämeenlinna, Vantaa and Helsinki.
  • First international test-drive
  • Development of first GACHA fleet

2020

  • Pre-commercial operation of GACHA fleet in selected cities in Europe and beyond

2021

  • First permanent commercial operations established
  • Integration within local public transportation systems
  • Industrial production to begin

The IoT Evolution Expo, and collocated events, IoT Evolution Health, LPWAN Expo, The Smart City Event, and IIoT Conference, will take place Jan. 29 to Feb 1 in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Visit IoTEvolutionExpo.com to register now.

Edited by Ken Briodagh

Editorial Director

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