Finnish Engineering Award to creators of a self-driving bus

News article

Difficult weather conditions are the Achilles' heel of self-driving vehicles. Thanks to its technological solutions, the Sensible 4 GACHA bus can complete its route regardless of rain, snow or fog.

The Finnish Engineering Award 2020 goes to the Sensible 4 team that built the GACHA self-driving shuttle bus. The work group built the bus themselves from scratch and coded the software that allows the bus to drive itself. Sensible 4 is a start-up company from Espoo and on this project they cooperated with the Japanese design company MUJI who designed the award-winning look of the bus.

The Finnish Engineering Award is annually granted by Academic Engineers and Architects in Finland TEK and its partner association Tekniska Föreningen i Finland TFiF. The Award honours persons or work groups who have significantly advanced technological knowhow in Finland. The Award is worth 30 000 euros.

– We worked very hard on GACHA with scarce resources and under heavy schedule pressure. I am glad that our work is now being recognised in the form of the Finnish Engineering Award, says Sensible 4's CEO Harri Santamala.

– We wish to use the Award to remind people of the significance of Finnish engineering. The productivity of work increases primarily through technological advancement. Engineering is the first step towards higher productivity, says TEK's CEO Jari Jokinen.

– The winner of the Award is a respectable combination of multiple competences developed for Finnish conditions that is sure to find many useful and sustainable applications all over the world, says Annika Nylander, TFiF's Executive Manager.

Self-driving buses in public transportation – pilot projects underway

Sensible 4's product is the software that allows the vehicle to drive itself. The company's clients include Toyota Motor Europe and Dongfeng, one of the four largest car manufacturers in China. In their initial financing round early this year, Sensible 4 collected a pot of 6 million euros from Japanese investors. The company means to use this money to expand their business into Europe and Asia.

Their goal is to bring self-driving buses into use in public transportation within the next few years. The GACHA bus is suitable for handling feeder traffic from train stations to workplaces or for crossing short distances on campuses, for example. The electric GACHA bus has a top speed of 40 km/h and it reduces local emissions in street canyons. It is a green choice for making short trips.

Sensible 4 is involved in the EU's FABULOS project that studies and pilots self-driving buses as part of city traffic. The GACHA bus drives its pilot route in Helsinki's Pasila five days a week until the beginning of July. Sensible 4 is also a participant in the LuxTurrim5G smart city pilot project in Espoo.

Growth despite corona

The story of the GACHA bus began when Harri Santamala, Jari Saarinen and Jussi Suomela decided to build a self-driving bus that would be better than any other robot bus that they had seen. At the time, Santamala was working on self-driving buses at the Metropolia University of Applied Sciences while Saarinen and Suomela worked at GIM Robotics.

Within a year of the birth of the idea, the three founded Sensible 4 in 2017 together with Tommi Rimpiläinen from Helsinki Business Hub. A ten person team began designing the bus in October 2018. Half a year later they could present the completed and totally functional GACHA bus.

The GACHA is based on decades of engineering and research. The technological solutions of the bus, such as the use of LiDAR laser radar and its data, were based on research conducted by a research group from Aalto University. LiDAR is partially the reason why the GACHA can drive even in poor weather conditions.

Since the GACHA was first presented, the company has grown. Over the coronavirus spring, Sensible 4 has doubled the number of its employees from 29 people to 62 – and recruitment is still ongoing.

On board the GACHA. In the top corner, from left to right: Miika Nousiainen, Teemu Korhonen and Marko Lindroos. Middle row from left to right: Jari Saarinen, Aku Kyyhkynen, Ert Ülle, Tuomas Tiira, Jalmari Matilainen, Tommi Berg, Aleksi Tepponen, Janne Luukkaa, Bilal Ahmad and Jussi Suomela. Bottom row from left to right: Fredrik Forssell, Harri Santamala, Maria Santamala, Tommi Rimpiläinen and Umar Hamid.

Sensible 4's award-winning GACHA team

  • Harri Santamala
  • Tommi Rimpiläinen
  • Jari Saarinen
  • Jussi Suomela
  • Teemu Korhonen
  • Bilal Ahmad
  • Tommi Berg
  • Fredrik Forssell
  • Umar Hamid
  • Aku Kyyhkynen
  • Marko Lindroos
  • Janne Luukkaa
  • Jalmari Matilainen
  • Miika Nousiainen
  • Maria Santamala
  • Aleksi Tepponen
  • Tuomas Tiira
  • Ert Ülle
  • Svyatoslav Beletskiy 
  • Jukka Latvakoski 
  • Jaakko Järvinen 
  • Masi Järvinen 
  • Sampo Kuikka  
  • Rajkumar Muthusamy 
  • José-Luis Peralta 
  • Jarkko Salonen 
  • Timo Suomala 
  • Sampo Säilä 
  • Tapio Taipalus 
  • Juha Tuomola

The Finnish Engineering Award

The Finnish Engineering Award has been awarded since the year 1980. Read more about the Award (in Finnish) and take a look at the winners throughout the years.