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Designers of autonomous bus GACHA win recognition

Engineers at Sensible 4 have been acknowledged for their hard work on GACHA, a self-driving all-weather bus that is being piloted in Helsinki, Finland.Suvi-Tuuli Kankaanpää

The technical solutions enabling the self-driving bus to operate rain, snow or shine have earned Sensible 4 The Finnish Engineering Award, a 30 000-euro prize given annually to engineering or architectural work that has advanced technical competence in Finland.

Engineers at the Espoo-based startup developed the 16-seater shuttle bus and the software that enables it to operate autonomously in all weather conditions from scratch over a roughly six-month period between 2018 and 2019. The exterior design of the bus was produced in collaboration with Japan’s MUJI.

“We worked on GACHA with scarce resources and under great time pressure. I am glad we have been recognised with The Finnish Engineering Award,” saidHarri Santamala, CEO of Sensible 4.

The award is given annually by Academic Engineers and Architects in Finland (TEK) and its Swedish-language sister union, Tekniska Föreningen i Finland (TFiF).

“The awarded project is a respectable combination of diverse expertise developed for the conditions of Finland, which will surely have several beneficial and sustainable use cases around the world,” commented Annika Nylander, chief operating officer at TFiF.

Rolling ahead

The bus can reach speeds of 40 km/h with a range of 100 km and accommodates 16 passengers. Image: Suvi-Tuuli Kankaanpää

The first half of the year has been busy for Sensible 4.

The Finnish startup announced last month it is providing its full-stack autonomous driving software for trials carried out later this year in Norway. The GACHA bus, meanwhile, is to be shipped halfway around the world to take a test spin in Dubai. Pilots are already underway in the Finnish capital, Helsinki.

A funding round wrapped up earlier this year provided the startup with a six million-euro boost to its expansion plans in Asia and Europe.

It has also more than doubled its headcount from 29 to 62 during the pandemic-interrupted spring, as it continues to work towards its goal of introducing robot buses to public transport systems within a couple of years.

By: Aleksi Teivainen