Martti is outfitted to function properly even “when turbulent snow degrades 3D-sensor performance,” the company’s project manager says.
Self-driving cars may be the future, but relinquishing control of the wheel certainly takes some getting used to. But what happens when you throw icy winter-road conditions into the mix?
The minds at VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland seek to reassure us with Martti, which they claim is the first fully autonomous car to safely handle a snow-covered public road without spinning out on a patch of black ice and death spiraling over a cliff.
According to a news release, Martti, a retrofitted Volkswagen Touareg, hit 25 mph per hour on snowy roads without lane markings in Finland’s frigid Lapland region and likely could go faster without issue.
Martti is outfitted to function properly even “when turbulent snow degrades 3D-sensor performance,” said project manager Matti Kutila in an email to Bloomberg.
“The trick is to adapt filters,” he continued; “filter” is another way of saying “algorithm.”
Martti relies on radar, three forward-facing lasers and a mix of cameras, antennas and sensors, plus a rear-mounted LIDAR for good measure.
Kutila told Bloomberg that he doesn’t anticipate that Martti will hit the streets for real anytime soon — current street maps aren’t accurate enough to ensure a completely seamless ride.
But he anticipates that the company will sell the underlying software that processes Martti’s sensor data and gives it driving commands, technology that could one day power buses and cars conveying skiers up and down a mountain.
VTT isn’t the only autonomous car outfit to test in the snow, but since Martii is specifically designed for the purpose, it has a head start, with real world months beginning earlier this autumn.
By mid-January, it will be able to communicate with digital transport infrastructure — that’s traffic and weather-related information already provided by governments and institutions — and by next spring, it’ll be tested in forest environment.