Finnish and American researchers prepare grounds for transatlantic collaboration in smart mobility

A Finnish delegation, comprising experts from Metropolia University of Applied Sciences and VTT Technical Research Center of Finland, recently embarked on a transformative ten-day trip to the United States. Facilitated by the Finnish-American Research and Innovation Accelerator (FARIA network), the journey aimed to deepen transatlantic collaboration in the field of smart mobility.
Finnish smart mobility experts exploring Mcity, a connected and automated vehicle technology testing site.
Exploring Mcity: Finnish smart mobility experts at a connected and automated vehicle technology testing site. Pictured from left to right: Oscar Nissin, Azat Kuitunen, and Eetu Pilli-Sihvola. Photo by Kristaps Kovalonoks.

Heading the Finnish delegation was Kristaps Kovalonoks, Coordinator of Global Engagement at Aalto University and a representative of FARIA. The team included smart mobility specialists: Oscar Nissin, Director of the Smart Mobility Innovation Hub, Azat Kuitunen, Project Manager at the Smart Mobility Innovation Hub, both from Metropolia University of Applied Sciences, and Eetu Pilli-Sihvola, Research Manager and Lead for Digitalisation of Transport at VTT Technical Research Center of Finland. Their journey took them through innovation hubs in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Michigan, where they visited renowned institutions, including Ohio State University, Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, and others.

Throughout the intensive schedule filled with meetings, lab visits, and in-depth discussions, the Finnish delegation explored the multifaceted world of smart mobility. Topics spanned from autonomous vehicles and drones to electric mobility and cutting-edge transportation systems. This trip resulted in valuable insights into the state of connected and automated vehicle testing in the United States. Additionally, knowledge was exchanged, sparking exciting opportunities for future collaboration.

Eetu Pilli-Sihvola of VTT Technical Research Center of Finland expressed his enthusiasm for the collaboration trip, stating, 'The research collaboration trip organised by FARIA was really fruitful and opened up a lot of future opportunities for us. We discovered a lot of common ground, especially on connected and automated vehicles, traffic safety, and drone research with a number of the organisations we talked with. The test site visits were personally really enlightening and increased our understanding of the state of connected and automated vehicle testing in the U.S.'

The Finnish delegation also had the privilege of exploring various testing facilities and labs, including the Transportation Research Center, Newlab, Detroit Smart Parking Lab, American Center for Mobility, and many more. The experiences during the trip proved once again the importance of in-person meetings and hands-on participation.

Significant differences in automated vehicle testing between the United States and Europe came to light during the trip. The U.S. stands out for its comparatively loose regulations, which foster increased flexibility in R&D. Additionally, discussions centred around rigorous testing conducted in adverse weather conditions and the concerning rise in pedestrian fatalities within the U.S., in contrast to Europe's declining statistics in this regard.

Oscar Nissin exploring the facilities at Newlab, Detroit.
Oscar Nissin exploring the facilities at Newlab’s new Detroit location in the heart of Michigan. Photo by Kristaps Kovalonoks.

Oscar Nissin of Metropolia University of Applied Sciences highlighted the significance of the trip's planning and organisation, saying, 'The locations we visited ranged from world-leading research universities to huge testing facilities, not forgetting our opportunity to visit even a high school working in the field of aviation. Our delegation size of four people was just perfect so that we could really delve into the matters that were of interest to us, and the composition of three different organisations gave us a good cooperative representation.'

During their free time, the Finnish delegation embraced local American culture with visits to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum and a college football game in Michigan, where an astounding 109,756 fans filled the stadium. They also seized the unique opportunity to participate in a university class focused on entrepreneurship and connected autonomous vehicles, in addition to engaging sessions where PhD students presented their research topics.

Kristaps Kovalonoks, representing Aalto University and FARIA, emphasized the importance of the trip, saying, 'Our mission is to strengthen collaboration between Finland and the U.S. Smart mobility is a field of considerable strength in both countries. We are pleased to see that there is ample room for fruitful collaboration. We were also genuinely thrilled by the enthusiastic response from our American counterparts, who went above and beyond to organise a diverse set of activities for us. At FARIA, we remain fully committed to assisting our members through a range of matchmaking and outreach activities.'

The Finnish-American Research & Innovation Accelerator (FARIA) is a strategic, US-focused network serving as a platform that integrates, aligns, and supports joint and associated actions of Finnish member institutions. The network is coordinated jointly by Aalto University and the University of Helsinki. To learn more about FARIA and its activities, please visit their website.

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 Kristaps Kovalonoks

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