The Finnish self-driving software company Sensible 4 has been expanding its operations to Norway, one of the leading countries in enabling autonomous vehicles on its roads. In the preparations of bringing Sensible 4 autonomous vehicles abroad, the autonomous driving software needed to be tested for safety. As there is no comprehensive legislation or standardization for self-driving vehicles, VTT performed an independent third-party test of the system. Reliable validation was essential for expanding the operations abroad.
In order for companies like Sensible 4 to continue their development of autonomous vehicles internationally, common and widely approved testing and validation procedures are required between nations.
Early this year Sensible 4 started trials with two open road pilots in Norway, one near Oslo and another one in Gjesdal. To enable these pilots, a driving permit from Vegvesen, the Norwegian road authority, was required. In Finland, VTT has a long history with autonomous machines and testing. Vegvesen relied on VTT’s technical expertise in testing and validation of Sensible 4 autonomous systems.
“Now we need action. Autonomous driving technology requires international testing procedures on public roads. Currently, lack of standardization between countries and often complex and varying driving permit practices are slowing down the innovation”, says Harri Santamala, the CEO of Sensible 4. He continues: “Norway is a good example of a frontline country working on current legislation and enabling future transportation.”
Sensible 4 technology performed safely
The tests that preceded the Norway pilots, including the obstacle detection and avoidance trials, were conducted in Nummela airfield in September 2020. The measurements were carried by using the automated vehicle tools and prototypes developed by VTT for enabling benchmarking the automated driving functions.
“The automated prototype vehicle Martti was utilized as the target vehicle for measuring safety margins and object detection capabilities”, says Matti Kutila, the Research Team Leader at VTT.
The test scenarios created by VTT included reacting to several static and as well as dangerously moving objects in the front of the vehicle. The vehicle’s capabilities for monitoring free space were tested in a T-intersection, at a pedestrian crossing, and while at a bus stop, waiting for other cars to first pass from the rear.
“The generated test protocol provides a basis for future testing and standardization. It allows for extending similar scenario tests and data gathering to further scenarios, environments, and environmental conditions”, Kutila continues.
Sensible 4 technology performed safely in all the tested scenarios. The tests were carried out systematically analyzing the driving scenarios, safety risks and conducting real measurements. The process follows existing standard methods where applicable. However, practical safety validation standards for automated driving do not exist, yet. The tests done in September 2020 contribute to building new methods and a safety testing culture.
Sensible 4 Oy 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.
VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland is a visionary research, development, and innovation partner. VTT drives sustainable growth and tackles the biggest global challenges of our time, and turns them into growth opportunities. VTT has almost 80 years of experience of top-level research and science-based results.
VTT has been developing automation in industrial vehicles for 25 years. Recent 5-7 years VTT has been involving connected and automated driving projects in Europe, U.S. and China. This has provided exceptional overview and experience of technical feasibility of automated driving functions in different operation design domains (ODDs). VTT has developed special research infrastructure and software tools (vehicles, LiDAR testing tools, connectivity equipment, etc.) which enables automation sub-system level testing procedures.