Last week marked the opening of AstaZero, the world’s first full-scale test track for active automotive safety located in Borås, some 40 miles east of Gothenburg in Sweden. The 2,000,000 square metres testing area simulates cities as well as multi-lane motorways and it is here that the Volvo Group will test and develop future safety solutions for heavy vehicles.
When it comes to safety, the Volvo Group’s vision is to have no Group vehicles involved in traffic accidents. The Group’s safety experts have studied data from traffic accidents since the 1960s and analyses show that many accidents can be avoided or mitigated before they even occur – by using so-called active safety systems.
Active safety systems prevent accidents by supporting the driver, for example, by providing information or reacting before the driver does. Examples of active safety systems developed by the Volvo Group include collision warning with emergency brake and lane change support.
The AstaZero proving ground has been built and developed in close co-operation with the Volvo Group, with the purpose of testing active safety innovations in full-scale test environments. The testing area, which covers some 2,000,000 square metres, is reminiscent of a gigantic film set containing nearly six kilometers of rural road with intersections, street lights and bus stops, as well as a city environment where vehicles can be tested in authentic scenarios involving other vehicles in heavy traffic, cyclists and pedestrians, a multi-lane motorway and an area for high-speed testing. The infrastructure enables connected vehicles to communicate with each other as well as with the surroundings.
“The Volvo Group is the leading provider of safety solutions for heavy vehicles and AstaZero gives us a unique advantage when developing the safety systems of the future. By using the proving ground’s sophisticated equipment and advanced test environments we will become even better at mitigating real life accidents, says Peter Kronberg, Safety Director at the Volvo Group.
He adds, “The co-operation between the industry, the public sector and academia is becoming increasingly more important for Sweden. It is by combining our resources that we will solve the problems of today’s society.”
According to the UN, around 2 million people are killed and 20-30 million are injured every year globally. The costs for the already overloaded health services are astronomic.
A large number of accidents would be prevented if more vehicles were equipped with active safety systems. These consist of sensors and advanced electronics which take over the driver’s role and make correct decisions at lightning speed which enable the vehicle to brake, veer out of the way or avoid head-on collisions. Autonomous, self-driving vehicles are another innovation which belong to the future.
"Vehicles which act on their own initiative might sound like science fiction, however, a lot of technology has already been designed, and developments are moving very rapidly. The fact is that it is people who cause accidents, not slipperiness or fog. If we can eliminate the human factor, we can also eliminate the number of accidents", says Pether Wallin, CEO of AstaZero.
During the opening of the track on Thursday August 21st, the Volvo Group held a demonstration to show how its electronic stabilisation system can prevent long trucks from overturning when cornering at high speeds, how automatic braking can prevent collisions between a truck and a passenger car and a display of an autonomous wheel loader.
AstaZero’s focus on safety is evident not only in its offering of advanced safety tests, but also in other areas. A group of frogs living in the area is known to move between its summer and winter habitats twice a year and must be able to continue doing so. So these small ‘critters’ have been given a natural path to their summer home a safe distance from the road.