The VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland believes that the ‘Martti’ self-driving vehicle it has developed is the first automated car to have driven fully autonomously on a real snow-covered public road.
VTT says Martti has also succeeded in setting a new speed record of 25mph (40km/h) on the Aurora E8 intelligent road in Muonio, probably setting a new unofficial world record for autonomous driving on a snow-covered highway.
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: Martti has three laser scanners sensing the environment only in front of the car, whereas Marilyn has two scanners looking forwards and one looking backward.
The Aurora E9 experiments have been conducted as a part of the Finnish government’s Artic Challenge-CAD (Connected and Automated Driving) project, a joint program that includes Indagon, InfoTripla and Dynniq. VTT’s automated cars are also intensely involved in the development of a 5G-based self-driving system through the 5G-SAFE project, which is part of innovation agency Tekes’ Challenge Finland program. VTT is working in close collaboration with the European automotive industry in the development of automation for demanding weather conditions.
The next step for VTT’s autonomous cars will be changing the wavelengths of the optical components, increasing the resolution of the radar, and building more intelligence into the software that monitors the capabilities of the sensors.
These are intended to enhance the vehicle’s functional capacity step-by-step, with a focus on slippery surfaces, where concealed edge of the road or fog may obstruct visibility. Different scenarios are continually added time in VTT’s development of autonomous cars, such as cities, main roads and exit ramps, which can all be handled safely, while increasing the driving speed and managing ever more demanding weather conditions.
“Martti has been designed for demanding weather conditions,” explained project manager, Matti Kutila, from VTT’s RobotCar Crew.
“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 40km/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 40km/h.”
Click here to see a video of Marrti in action.