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Introducing Sensible 4 — interview with Harri Santamala, CEO

Sensible 4 is the developer of the first all-weather self-driving technology in the world. The Espoo-based startup accelerated on the Finnish mobility scene in 2018 with the launch of GACHA — the world's first self-driving shuttle bus for all weather conditions. Sensible 4 developed GACHA in cooperation with the Japanese retail corporation Muji. 

Since then, the autonomous vehicle tech startup has got a €6 million investment from Nordic Ninja and ITOCHU and are on their way to launch Dawn, the first commercial all-weather solution in the autonomous tech sector.

Why does Sensible 4 exist?

We exist to create autonomous vehicle software that enables the disruption of the societal mobility system.

What is the problem that your self-driving innovation solves?

Through our all-weather self-driving technology, we want to bring new pieces to the shared mobility ecosystem that enables the use of services that are not currently possible to produce in an economically feasible way. 

"We are known for our cooperation with Muji. However, our proudest achievement has been to grow our company from zero to where we are now in just three years."

Who are Sensible 4's customers?

Our key target groups are automotive companies that produce new vehicles and sell solutions and services to operators, such as municipalities and cities.

What’s the story behind Sensible 4? 

In 2016, when working for Metropolia University of Applied Sciences, I was running an autonomous bus pilot in Espoo, where I met our two other founders — Jussi Suomela and Jari Saarinen. Both have a strong Aalto University background and several decades of research in the field. They are the experts in all-weather solutions. 

When we came together, we realised the problem of autonomous vehicle technology: scalability. If the technology doesn't work in all weather conditions, you can't scale your business. After all, the assumption is that the tech needs to work year-round for taxis, busses — for all logistics. 

Therefore, bad weather and our strong technology focus were why we thought we needed to start a company and see how far it would take us.

A shuttle bus driving in and leaving tracks in the snow with snow falling down.
Sensible 4 is best known for GACHA, the world's first self-driving shuttle bus for all weather conditions. Image: Sensible 4

How is sustainability connected to your business?

Sustainability benefits come as part of our package. We don't believe that the need for people and goods to move will decrease. So, we need to build solutions that make mobility more sustainable and decrease the problems mobility causes. For example, reduce the huge amount of time people have to invest in commuting.

We are a software company, so our core is technology. However, we have cooperated with universities that have an interest to research the social sustainability questions further. This then also directs our work in the right direction.

What are your greatest achievements and the most difficult times? 

Achievements:

We are known for our cooperation with Muji. However, our proudest achievement has been to grow our company from zero to where we are now in just three years — and get several major clients in our key markets of Asia and Europe.

Difficult times: 

For an entrepreneur and startup, to get cash flow is always the toughest task. For us to get the first funding round was a huge achievement. 

Also, it needed hard work to shape our company mindset to fit into the growth company mould. So that, firstly, we're a fit company to invest in. And secondly, to have a crystal-clear mindset about what we'll do when we get the investment. 

What motivates you?

We're motivated to see that we're the best company in the world in the focus we have — in an industry with a massive influx of investments. We have a client pipeline to prove it, and we've achieved this despite having very limited resources and partly because of our deep knowledge of and history in the industry.

"It needed hard work to shape our company mindset to fit into the growth company mould. So that we're a fit company to invest in."

Why should an international company or investor come to Espoo's innovation ecosystem?

Espoo has a world-class ICT ecosystem and, for example, Aalto University. There are a lot of highly educated people and expertise with a Nokia background. Also, Espoo offers a lot of untapped potential globally. 

The cities and public sector in the Greater Helsinki area are active in finding creative solutions for companies like us. For instance, we can pilot our autonomous technologies on public roads in Espoo. Many initiatives enable local companies to learn and showcase their solutions to potential clients.

Hero image: Sensible 4 

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