It’s one thing for an autonomous car to strut its stuff on a smooth, warm California tarmac, and quite another to do so on the frozen winter mix of northern Finland.
Martti, a self-driving vehicle system homegrown in Finland, demonstrated just this in a record-setting drive along a treacherous (to normal drivers) Laplandish road.
Martti is one of two cars designed by VTT Technical Research Center; it’s designed to handle rough and icy conditions, while its “spouse” Marilyn is made for more ordinary urban drives. Different situations call for different sensors and strategies — for instance, plain optical cameras perform poorly on snowy roads, and lidar is less effective, so Martti will rely more on radar. But Marilyn has a rear-mounted lidar for better situational awareness in traffic.
Recently Martti accomplished what the researchers claim is a world first: driving fully autonomously on a real snow-covered road (and hitting 25 MPH, at that). Others from Yandex to Waymo have tested cars in snow, but from their reports these seem to have been more controlled conditions. Martti’s drive took place in Muonio on a public road almost totally obscured by snow.
“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,” said project manager Matti Kutila in a VTT news release. “It could have had even more speed, but in test driving it is programmed not to exceed the limit of 40 km/h.”
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