New ‘robobus’ that can work in all weather conditions heading for the streets

2 Nov 2018

The Gacha bus concept is due to begin testing next year. Image: Sensible 4/Muji

A Finnish autonomous car company has revealed a new ‘robobus’ that it claims is the first to be built for all weather conditions.

This week in the internet of things (IoT) space, we heard from Three Ireland’s Karl Duffy, who described how 5G and IoT are shaping the future of telecoms.

As the operator’s head of enterprise and public sector within its business department, Duffy described how Three will be trialling 5G in Ireland in the coming months and will start its roll-out in 2019.

Finnish firm works with retail chain to build ‘robobus’

Finnish autonomous driving company Sensible 4 has announced it is working with designer high street chain Muji to build what it claims is the first self-driving bus that can work in all weather conditions.

With Muji providing the design and Sensible 4 building the technology, the Gacha bus is set to be revealed in March 2019 in Helsinki, with test drives expected to take place in three Finnish cities by the first half of next year. The aim is then to roll out the Gacha bus fleet in 2020 and for it to be fully operational in 2021.

The bus is packed with LiDAR and radar sensors as well as cameras, GPS, and 4G LTE and 5G connectivity, and it has been extensively tested under Arctic conditions.

“We are developing these vehicles so that they can become part of daily transportation service chain,” said Harri Santamala, CEO of Sensible 4. “Autonomous vehicles can’t become mainstream until their technology has been insured to work in all climates.”

Baidu woos US car giant Ford to develop future cars

While much mistrust exists between the China and the US when it comes to technology, Ford has announced a partnership between itself and Baidu to conduct joint autonomous vehicle (AV) testing.

The Baidu-Ford L4 Autonomous Vehicle Test Project is a two-year initiative, with on-road testing slated to begin by the end of this year. The project will see Ford and Baidu cooperating to develop and test AVs that are designed to meet the Level 4 driving automation standard, just one level below a fully autonomous car.

Tests will be conducted on open roads in Beijing that are designated for AV testing, with the option of exploring further opportunities in other Chinese cities in the future, in accordance with local regulations.

“Working with a leading tech partner like Baidu allows us to leverage new opportunities in China to offer innovative solutions that improve safety, convenience and the overall mobility experience,” said Sherif Marakby, president and CEO of Ford Autonomous Vehicles.

Volvo cosies up to Baidu to develop robotaxis

In a separate agreement, Swedish car manufacturer Volvo will work with Baidu to develop and manufacture Level 4 ‘robotaxis’ in China some time after 2020. However, no formal deal has been signed yet.

Based on the collaboration agreement, Baidu will contribute to Volvo’s Apollo autonomous driving platform, while Volvo will provide Baidu with access to its expertise in car technology.

“There is a strong development in autonomous drive in China, where Baidu is a leading player, and the market there offers huge opportunities for us as the supplier of choice for autonomous fleets,” said Håkan Samuelsson, president and CEO of Volvo Cars.

The decision to partner with Baidu is a necessary one for Volvo – and Ford, for that matter – as, in order for a foreign company to develop mapping technology for its cars in China, it must work with a local partner.

Xiaomi makes major IoT push into neighbour Japan

At the same time as it releases a range of new products in Ireland, Chinese tech manufacturer Xiaomi has begun a major push into neighbouring Japan’s IoT market.

According to Nikkei Asian Review, the company sees Japan as a hotbed of IoT activity, and will be using its Japanese affiliate, Lumi United Technology, to partner with software developer Asteria to sell sensors that control temperature, ventilation, lighting and other functions in offices, hotels and shops.

“Lumi is a leading [provider] of smart devices in China,” said Eugene You, Lumi’s CEO. “To enter a brand new foreign market, we needed to find a good partner like Asteria. Our hardware and Asteria’s software are very complementary.”

Asteria’s key product is an artificially intelligent system called Gravio, which manages and analyses data from sensors and other software. For example, it is able to alert staff in a building when CO2 levels are dangerously high.

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Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic