Autonomous car, winter version: Under development in Finland

December 18, 2017 // By Christoph Hammerschmidt
Autonomous driving is already a challenging thing on normal, dry roads. It is even more so on ice-covered, slippery road. Where else could engineers face this challenge than in Finland? And so Martti, the first automated car to drive autonomously on a snow-covered road is the product of researchers from the VTT Research Centre of Finland.

Martti is a research vehicle developed on the chassis of Volkswagen Touareg. Like its counterpart Marilyn, it is equipped with cameras, antennas, sensors and laser scanners. The number and placement of sensors differs between the vehicles. For example, Martti has three laser scanners sensing the environment only in front of the car, whereas its spouse Marilyn has two scanners looking forwards and one looking backwards.

“When in spring 2017 we taught Marilyn to drive autonomously, this autumn it has been teaching us on how to make Martti such that it can get along with its spouse, and follow GPS and positioning information on its route. Martti has been designed for demanding weather conditions and Marilyn shines as the queen of urban areas,” says project manager Matti Kutila from VTT’s RobotCar Crew, describing the couple.

On the intelligent road of Muonio, Martti was also given intensive training. “It clearly has a very determined mindset, and after a persistent 24-hour training session, it started functioning. Earlier, Marilyn required a lot more work, because its control software was created from scratch. Martti uses the same software, which did no longer require more than minor adjustments,” says Ari Virtanen, who was in charge of building the car and its equipment.

Martti made its speed record, when it was allowed to pick up speed after having felt its way for a little while. “It probably also made a new world record in fully automated driving, making 40 km/h in a snowfall on snow-covered terrain without lane markings. It could have had even more speed, but in test driving it is programmed not to exceed the limit of 40 km/h,” Kutila points out. The amazing drive was implemented by Pasi Pyykönen, Ari Virtanen and Rainer Täppinen.


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