© Byraa Bodø
Automated vehicle in snowy weather

Automated Driving Service In Arctic Circle Ends Successfully

June 6, 2023
The automated driving trial, spanning three seasons, took place in harsh Arctic weather conditions in Norway. The project provided valuable insights and data, which will be used further to develop and enhance automated driving technology in harsh weather.

The first long-term automated driving project carried out by Mobility Forus, Boreal, Nordland County Municipality, Bodø Municipality, and Sensible 4 ended successfully in Bodø, Norway. The half-year project was carried out using two Sensible 4 automated Toyota Proace Verso Electric vehicles. The vehicles drove a 3,6 km route, providing a crucial transport link for the local residents by linking the local harbor with the hospital.

One of the key technical challenges of the project was for the automated vehicles to be able to contend with Bodø’s notoriously challenging weather throughout summer, autumn, and winter.

“Bodø is often described as a city where you can experience all four seasons in one day. In that sense, we certainly got what we wished for. We truly want to learn from the most difficult driving conditions and whilst we’re experienced in driving in harsh Nordic conditions—Bodø was unique. We had to contend with heavy rain, falling leaves, strong wind, ice, and falling snow," says Harri Santamala, CEO of Sensible 4.

The automated driving project not only allowed for the testing and development of the technology, but it also provided a public transport service, creating a route that was long awaited. Before the project started, the only way to access the hospital was with a private car or taxi.

“The technology needs to continue testing and developing, so we in the future time will reach the level and quality we need to scale up autonomous solutions in public transport. We still have several steps to go before the solutions will be fully autonomous with the safety driver operating from the control room," says Linn Terese Lohne Marken, CEO of Mobility Forus, a leading operator of autonomous solutions.

Innovation city, Bodø lures smart city tourists and so did the trial. Already the opening ceremony engaged a lot of attention locally and the months continued with a steady flow of inhabitants using the service.

“The purpose behind the pilot in Bodø was to increase the knowledge and maturity among stakeholders and citizens and at the same time test the technology in our arctic climate. After our pilot, I think autonomous vehicles are expected to become more common. However, the timeline for widespread adoption is still uncertain and needs to mature, as there are many technical, regulatory, and societal challenges that must be addressed. Therefore, I think it’s important to continue with these types of piloting projects. So, we can make sure these types of technology are accepted, implemented, and functioning also in our part of the world. As technology continues to improve and regulations catch up, I think it’s likely that we will see a gradual increase in the use of autonomous vehicles. Both for personal and commercial purposes. And I do believe autonomous buses will be a part of the future mobility solutions in the new smart city here in Bodø," comments Project manager Rune Eiterjord in Smarter Transport Bodø.

For the first time, there were utilized electric Toyota Proace vehicles, which were automated for the trial by Sensible 4—vehicles were driving long, 14-hour days. The project generated interesting data about how diesel vehicles differ from electric, and long-hours offered a wide range of data and experience.

During the project, Sensible 4 was able to improve the driving experience, to make it even smoother than before, the perception of the environment improved, and the user interface was tuned based on the safety operator feedback—this information will be very useful for remote operations in the future.

Santamala concludes: “We didn’t choose Bodø because we thought it would be an easy task; carrying out the world’s first long-term driving project North of the Arctic Circle presented us with some unique challenges, which we wanted to face and overcome. At the core of every successful venture is a great collaboration and this project is no exception. The data and feedback generated during this project take us yet another step closer to realizing the commercial viability of autonomous vehicles.”

Trial Quick Facts:

  • Bodø, Norway
  • Automated public transportation service from the harbor to the hospital
  • Dates June 28 - December 20, 2022
  • 11,184 miles of driving (18,000 km)
  • 1,703 passengers on board
  • Max 19 mi/h speed (30 km/h)
  • 2-mile route (3.6 km)
  • Mixed traffic, narrow streets, limited visibility in busy intersections
  • SAE level 4 automation with a safety operator on board
  • Challenging weather conditions
    • Snow
    • Heavy rain
    • Strong wind
    • Falling leaves
    • Ice

Sensible 4 is an automated driving technology company on a mission to enable autonomous mobility everywhere. The technology enables different types of vehicles to operate autonomously in all weather. In 2022, it released an automated driving software platform DAWN to enable industrial vehicles, delivery vans, and shuttles to operate autonomously at Level 4.

Mobility Forus makes transportation smarter, more accessible, and more sustainable through autonomous transport solutions. The company was first to operate autonomous shuttles on Norwegian roads in 2018.