The Finnish company Unikie is a global pioneer in smart mobility. The company has introduced solutions that add value and turn autonomous driving into a profitable business.
Vesa Kiviranta, Chief Business Officer of Technology Business at Unikie, emphasises that one of the key challenges of the business is to understand customers’ needs and the field’s requirements.
“Many engineers make the mistake of thinking that fancy technology alone is enough to convince the customer and seal the deal. Our belief is that autonomous driving must be something more than just technology, which is why our solution is backed by a strong business logic. Using new technology has to be a profitable business for the customer, and it must add significant value for them,” Kiviranta states.
From parking services to autonomous logistics channel
Unikie has made a significant contribution to the development of the global car industry. In 2021, the company introduced its Automated Valet Parking solutions in collaboration with leading automotive brands, including BMW, Audi, Volkswagen, Porsche, Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar Land-Rover and Ford. This technology revolutionises the logistics of car manufacturing, making moving the cars from the production plants to dealers smoother.
“In manufacturing plants that do not use our system, people have to manually move the cars to the testing lines or parking and maintenance spots. By the time the car has been transported from the plant to the dealer, people have been moving it from one place to another dozens of times,” Vesa Kiviranta describes the currently common situation.
Unikie’s Marshalling solution, piloted at Ford’s Saarlouis production plant, allows for cars to be remotely controlled during logistics processes. Thanks to this technology, cars can be maneuvered to the right places efficiently and safely.
“The system has a short pay-off period since the customer immediately starts to save time and money,” Kiviranta says.
Achim Schmidt-Soltau, Chief Engineer of Final Assembly Engineering at Ford, gives an example of a truck driver arriving to pick up the cars bound for the dealers. “In the past, the driver would have to circle the field to pick up all the cars. Using Unikie’s Marshalling system, these 6–8 cars can be remotely steered onto a truck.”
“In the system we have developed, LiDARs and sensors are integrated into the infrastructure. They can be used to sense location, people, cars, and other obstacles so that the car can be safely maneuvered to the right place,” Kiviranta explains.
In the video, Achim Schmidt-Soltau, Chief Engineer of Final Assembly Engineering at Ford, shares what Ford has achieved through the cooperation with Unikie.
Unikie is currently involved in an extensive international consortium of organisations which aims to standardise this system.
Unikie’s technology foresees growth also in other closed environments
Unikie’s Marshalling solution is not limited to only cars. It can also be used in other closed environments, such as bus depots, where logistics chains are slowed down due to the charging times of the increasingly common electric buses.
“We have successfully used this same expertise with Finnish machinery manufacturers in harbours, mines, and forestry and agriculture. We can also use these connections to bring international knowhow to our cluster of Finnish companies,” Kiviranta says, describing the advantages.
Unikie has invested in its own testing centre in Turku, Finland, where the Marshalling solution is being developed. The testing centre is a part of the company’s growth strategy, in which their primary goal is achieving international business through innovative solutions.
For Unikie’s future success, using artificial intelligence and other advanced technologies is essential. Intensive cooperation with other operators is essential for achieving a competitive advantage. Unikie is actively involved in many global consortiums and projects.
Unikie is also a founder of Business Finland’s Vamos ecosystem that aims to promote the growth of smart technology companies on the global market.
“The ecosystem is helping all involved operators to reach a new level faster than a single company could do alone,” Kiviranta summarises the idea.
The video shows how buses at a depot can move autonomously between charging, maintenance and washing stations.
Photo: Shoja Lak