Muji just made autonomous vehicles slightly more chic. The minimalist Japanese company has teamed up with Finnish autonomous driving company Sensible 4 to create the Gacha shuttle bus, an autonomous vehicle that it claims is the first in the world designed to function in all weather conditions.
For the collaboration, Muji gave the shuttle bus and user experience its sleek design aesthetic, while Sensible 4 provided the autonomous driving technology, including navigation and obstacle detection that can function in heavy rain, fog, and snow–all of which are common in Finland’s long winters. To put its all-weather vehicles through its paces, Sensible 4 headed to arctic Lapland for tests, knowing that autonomous vehicles probably won’t be commercially viable until they can work anywhere, in any weather.
“We are developing these vehicles so that they can become part of [the] daily transportation service chain,” says Harri Santamala, CEO of Sensible 4. “Autonomous vehicles can’t become mainstream until their technology has been insured to work in all climates.”
The vehicle will hit the streets of Helsinki in March 2019 (let’s all plan a trip to Helsinki!) and will then start shuttling passengers around three Finnish cities in real-life traffic, presumably with planned stops at the country’s new Muji store, scheduled to open in Helsinki in November 2019. If tests go as planned, the companies are working to develop an entire Gacha fleet, which they are hoping to roll out in 2020 with the hope of being in mainstream use by 2021.