As part of the FABULOS field testing phase, a fleet of three self-driving vehicles is driving in Helsinki, Finland. The pilot is supported by an on-demand mobile app and a Remote Control Centre for autonomous vehicles. One of the vehicles is GACHA robotbus with an award winning design.
FABULOS (Future Automated Bus Urban Level Operation System) is a research and development project to establish and to deliver a systemic proof-of-concept on automated last mile public transport as part of existing transport systems of urban areas, based on the use of self-driving minibuses. The FABULOS project is coordinated by Forum Virium Helsinki.
Robot buses as part of urban public transportation
During the final phase of the FABULOS pre-commercial procurement, pilots in five of the partnering countries take place. Three selected prototypes are tested as small fleets of automated buses in Estonia, Finland, Greece, the Netherlands and Norway. All pilot cities’ routes are aiming to offer solutions for the last mile transportation, but have their own unique qualities and geographical challenges. The duration of each field test is 50 days minimum.
On 14th of April 2020, a fleet of three self-driving vehicles began operating in Pasila, Helsinki. Autonomous shuttle bus GACHA – designed by MUJI – is one of the three autonomous vehicles driving the Pasila route. The pilot is supported by an on-demand mobile app and a Remote Control Centre (RCC) for autonomous vehicles. Due to the Covid-19 situation, no passengers are currently allowed onboard. As the corona epidemic winds down, the pilot may be opened for the general public later in the spring.
50 day pilot in busy area of Pasila
The vehicles in the FABULOS project drive along a circular route in Eastern Pasila, going from the Pasila station next to the Mall of Tripla, then turning north to circle back to Messukeskus Fair centre. The Pasila route runs around a large block consisting of offices and housing, together with several public services and authorities. The robot buses will ride partly on a separate lane with speeds of up to 40 km/h.
A large new shopping centre “Mall of Tripla” was recently opened in Pasila, and it also serves as a mobility hub, connecting train station, bus terminal, bike parking and tram stops. The number of passengers changing transport modes at the mobility hub is projected to reach 100 000 users per day by 2035. These developments were considered when Pasila was chosen as the pilot site for testing robot buses as part of urban public transportation systems.
The companies in charge of the pilot operations are Sensible4 and Shotl. Sensible4 is a Finnish software company, focused on all weather autonomous driving. Demand-based transportation is tested with an application created by the Spanish company Shotl. The pilot is scheduled to continue until June 30, and it will have at least 50 operational driving days, validating both the technology and compliance with the public transport systems.
Smart mobility testing in Helsinki
The ongoing pilot also fits the City of Helsinki’s current strategy about demand-driven traffic, according to Technical Project Manager Ulla Tikkanen from Forum Virium Helsinki.
“The successful pilot is a result of multidisciplinary cooperation between different Helsinki city units, authorities and private companies. This pilot continues Helsinki’s impressive history of testing automated vehicles in urban settings. This pilot is perfectly in line with the Helsinki city strategy 2017-2021, as the city encourages a transition into a demand-driven traffic system, as well as serves as a testing platform in the commercialisation of new smart mobility solutions and in the promotion of tomorrow’s technologies.”
The Remote Control Center is located in the pilot area at the premises of Traficom, The Finnish Transport and Communications Agency. Traficom has been supporting the pilot preparations from the start of the project.
Sensible 4 press release:
Sensible 4 launches a fleet of self-driving vehicles in busy area of Helsinki