A historic day north of the Arctic Circle
A soap boble christening, cake, speeches and keen inhabitants. The self-driving shuttle service in Bodø is officially open to the public. It is the world’s first long-term autonomous driving service north of the Arctic Circle and provides a crucial public transport link for local residents
Mobility Forus, Boreal, Nordland County Municipality, Bodø Municipality and Sensible 4 are collaborating to carry out the world’s first long-term autonomous driving service in subpolar climate with challenging weather that changes dramatically throughout the year. The annual mix of rain, wind, snow, daylight hours, and varying temperatures provide the ultimate test for Sensible 4’s all-weather software.
“We are witnessing a historic day: Bodø is officially operating the northernmost autonomous shuttle bus route in the world! Such a project brings with it tremendous challenges, not least because of the weather. Bodø is known for experiencing four seasons in one day; it’s really exciting to see how the technology behind the autonomous shuttles will work in such conditions. If the autonomous shuttles can operate in Bodø, they will work anywhere in the world”, says Project manager Rune Eiterjord in Smarter Transport Bodø, a division of Nordland county.
Harri Santamala, CEO of autonomous driving technology company Sensible 4, continues: “This project goes right to our core at Sensible 4. Operating in Bodø provides us with the opportunity to demonstrate how our technology performs in seriously bad weather that is often highly unpredictable. Moreover, we’re delighted to be able to provide a key service that creates an important public transport link for the local community, where driver shortage remains a key challenge across Norway, that Bodø is trying to overcome through their adoption of autonomous mobility technology.”
Public transport service in an innovation city
The project continues to strengthen Bodø’s reputation as a city of innovation, with multiple smart projects held within the city, as it pursues its vision to create a smart and attractive mobility system that benefits the environment and stimulates local innovation.
“This project is an important step forward for autonomous public transport”, says Linn Terese Lohne Marken, CEO of Mobility Forus.
“We are providing inhabitants with a sought after public transport service through advanced technology, as well as working closely with the authorities to standardise legislation and in doing so preparing Norway for the mobility solutions that are coming”, she adds.
The pilot will see two electric Toyota Proace vehicles, equipped with Sensible 4’s autonomous driving software, operate along a 3,6-kilometre route from the local harbour to the hospital. It is a complex route with pedestrians and crossing traffic. Operating on public roads – the autonomous vehicles will travel at speeds of up to 30km/h along a route with eight bus stops. The vehicles will operate autonomously, but in keeping with Norwegian law, there will be a safety driver on board to take over operations if necessary.
“The Smarter Transport Bodø project may well be talked about because of the advanced technology we’re deploying around the city. However, this service is about putting the local residents first, by providing a crucial transport link to the local hospital,” states Eiterjord.
He concludes: ”We see that the potential for autonomous vehicles to not only move people but also move goods and freight for longer distances, providing a key service for the business community. Although this is forward-looking, we believe that there will be exponential growth in the autonomous mobility technology and the vehicles that are currently being developed. The mobility solutions of the future are closer than you would think. This is just the start of a new smart city and more sustainable mobility north of the Arctic Circle.”
The initial duration of the autonomous public transport service is from June to the New Year, with an aim of extending the project period to March 2023, to really catch the worst of the Nordic winter season.