Muji—the Japanese lifestyle brand known for satisfyingly minimalist, affordable, and functional products—is now a self-driving car designer. Created in collaboration with the Finnish autonomous vehicle company Sensible 4, the Gacha is an all-weather shuttle bus purpose-designed for arctic weather. The first fleet of Gacha buses is expected to be produced by 2020 and the companies think the autonomous vehicles could be used in public in Finland by 2021.
“We are developing these vehicles so that they can become part of daily transportation service chain. Autonomous vehicles can’t become mainstream until their technology has been insured to work in all climates”, Harri Santamala, CEO of Sensible 4, said in a news release.
Most autonomous vehicles are tested in temperate climates and on paved roads, which means that they can’t be used in extreme situations where they might be needed most. Muji cites aging populations in remote areas—who might not have daily access to a car or someone to assist them—as a target audience.
“The advanced technology of autonomous driving has potential in the countryside where decreasing birthrates and aging populations are causing problems in these communities,” the company said in a release.
In predictable Muji fashion, the design is minimalist, environmentally conscious, and inviting. The bus has no front or back, is electric, fitted with LED lights and a rounded silhouette.
While Muji is best known for its housewares and furniture, the brand has always applied its design philosophy of a “pleasant life” to different mediums: hotels, tiny houses, restaurants, prefabs, relaxation apps, and more. This isn’t Muji’s first car either: In 2001 it designed a vehicle for Nissan. With the Gacha bus, Muji again shows the potential for innovative design to solve problems and help people live better.