} ;

Muji designs an autonomous bus for winter

01 November 2018 | by Chris Maillard

Japanese homeware and fashion retailer Muji has supplied the design for an autonomous shuttle bus which will be trialled in Finland next year, with the aim of rolling it out fully in 2020.

The Gacha Shuttle Bus is, they say, the first autonomous bus in the world for all weather conditions. Tech agency Sensible 4, based in Espoo, Finland is a specialist in cold-weather AV technology and has provided the autonomous driving systems, with the support of Finnish cities Espoo, Vantaa and Hämeenlinna.

“Weather plays a critical role in opening the market for autonomous buses or robotaxis,” explained the company. “Currently heavy rain, fog, and snow prevent autonomous vehicles from driving, as the existing technologies are mostly being tested and developed in warm climate conditions. Sensible 4 has focused on technology tests and validation under arctic Lapland conditions.”

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The interior follows a familiar bus format, with large information screens

Meanwhile, Muji’s own statement is interesting: “Muji proposes a pleasant life. This not only covers products for daily life but also the challenges faced by different communities. The advanced technology of autonomous driving has potential in the countryside where decreasing birthrates and aging populations are causing problems in these communities. Finland has a perfect environment for the autonomous vehicle testing, because it is legally not required to have a driver on the vehicle running on public roads.

“The design is made in consideration of the users. The highlights of the design are its shape, which is friendly and designed with no front or back, the LED light belt, which is made from the combination of the headlights and communication screen, and the seating that follows the soft rounded square shape of the bus.“

The prototype will be unveiled to the public in Helsinki, March 2019. After its unveiling, the Gacha shuttle bus will start its final phase of testing, operating a passenger service in the three Finnish cities. We’ll be keeping a close eye on this project, combining as it does a popular, design-led retail company making a move into vehicles and an interesting twist on autonomous technology. 

Autonomy is bound to be a hot topic at the inaugural Car Design Forum LA 2018 on November 28 – learn more about this unique event, and register, here.