Japanese lifestyle retailer MUJI and Finnish autonomous driving company Sensible 4 have launched Gacha in Helsinki, FInland, which they describe as the first autonomous driving bus for all weather conditions, with a view to beginning public-facing operations next month.
While Sensible 4 provided the technology for the vehicle, including positioning, navigation and obstacle detection to enable all year-round autonomous driving regardless of the weather, MUJI has provided the vehicle’s design, developing the functional aesthetic and user experience.
Gacha’s debut test-drive took place in front of the new Oodi Helsinki Central Library.
It 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 cities around the world.
Gacha lacks a front or rear. 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, bringing peace and happiness to those who encounter it, says its creators.
“The Gacha development got started when the 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,” said Harri Santamala, CEO of Sensible 4.
“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.”