Finnish self-driving technology company was testing its software in the Lapland of Finland for 2,5 weeks. The Temperature went even below -20°C, visibility distance was short, and roads were covered in snow – in other words, conditions were perfect for testing autonomous vehicles.
In December 2020, Finnish self-driving technology company Sensible 4 accomplished 2,5-week winter testing in Muonio, which is located in Finnish Lapland. The weather was mostly dark, snowy, and cold: degrees went below -20°C, surroundings and driving lanes were covered in snow, and visibility was only some meters from time to time.
Data gathering in snowy surroundings
There were three targets set for the testing: training data gathering, hardware reliability testing in arctic weather, and full-stack testing. All-snowy conditions, where lanes, trees, and parked cars are covered in snow – and people are looking different in winter clothing – is an important aspect for the development of the self-driving product Dawn.
“We were interested in collecting image data of snowy road conditions. Testing on the slippery roads and during a heavy snowfall was good practice for the future development”, explains Senior Autonomous Vehicle Engineer Antti Hietanen from Sensible 4’s Research and Innovation team.
Testing gave a lot of specific data for the future: it can be used for example to improve the perception stack to cope with the common landmarks or objects in winter conditions.
Hietanen continues: “The first time we also had Vaisala’s PWD22 weather instrument with us. It was used to precisely detect the current weather parameters and later to identify the threshold for the weather conditions we were still able to operate.”
Getting ready for the Dawn
One of the main findings on the hardware side was that some of the sensors tend to face problems in humid conditions and when the temperature drops below -10°C. Now the abnormal behavior is noted and in the future, those sensors will be used that worked fine even in the hardest conditions. Another option would be creating custom solutions, like covers, to avoid the problems.
“Based on the results gathered in the Lapland, it looks like we should be more than ready in 2022 when we will launch Dawn, the world’s first commercial all-weather autonomous driving software product”, comments Harri Santamala, the CEO and a founder of the Sensible 4.
Sensible 4 Ltd is a Finnish self-driving tech company that has solved a major obstacle in autonomous driving, varying weather. The company develops full-stack autonomous driving software that turns any vehicle into self-driving. The unique technology combines software and information from several different sensors, enabling vehicles to operate in all weather conditions, including snowfall and fog. In 2022 it will launch the world’s first commercial all-weather software product, Dawn, for SAE level 4 driverless last-mile shuttles.
The founders of Sensible 4 have been developing autonomous vehicles since the ‘80s. In February 2020, Sensible 4 secured 7 million dollars in series A funding round from Japanese investors and the technology has won multiple awards, including 1st place in the Dubai World Challenge for Self-Driving Transport 2019 competition and the Finnish Engineering Prize in 2020.