Japanese lifestyle retailer MUJI and Finnish autonomous driving company Sensible 4 launched GACHA, the first autonomous driving bus for all weather conditions today, 8 March 2019, in Helsinki, Finland with a view to begin public-facing operations in April.
MUJI and Sensible 4 have launched GACHA, the first self-driving shuttle bus in the world for all weather conditions. The vehicle is a result of the collaboration between Finnish autonomous driving company Sensible 4 and Japanese lifestyle retailer MUJI. While 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, 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 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.
GACHA from inside the bus
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, a universal shape that embodies joy and excitement, bringing peace and happiness to those who encounter it.
“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”, says Harri Santamala, CEO of Sensible 4.
The fruitful collaboration between Sensible 4 and Muji proves Helsinki’s reputation as the internationally attractive environment, bringing together the interesting startups and companies seeking for the best ways to improve the everyday lives of residents.
“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” says Marja-Liisa Niinikoski, CEO of 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.