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Volvo opens private city to test safety systems

Automaker to test safety systems at new 500-acre facility in Sweden that mimics real road conditions.

By Douglas Newcomb Aug 21, 2014 12:27PM

 AstaZero proving ground. Photo by Volvo.Volvo has set an ambitious goal: building vehicles in which “no one should be killed or seriously injured” by the year 2020. While the automaker, like others, can perform a variety of crash tests and trials in labs and other facilities, real-world scenarios are more difficult to replicate. So the next best thing is to build that world.

The automaker is getting help on this from its Swedish neighbor AstaZero, which has just opened what Volvo calls “the world’s first full-scale proving ground for future traffic safety solutions.” Along with help from universities and suppliers, as well as the Swedish government, it’s where Volvo will develop and test new active safety “driver assistance” systems such as its City Safety with pedestrian and bicycle detection that prevent accidents before they happen -- and will help achieve Volvo's no-death goal in six years.

The AstaZero proving ground is located near Volvo’s world headquarters outside Gothenburg, Sweden, and will allow the creation of a multitude of environments, from urban to rural roads to multilane highways. “You can simulate all types of real-world traffic scenarios,” Pether Wallin, CEO of AstaZero said in a statement. “At most proving grounds, the options are more limited.”

As active safety, autonomous driving and intelligent transportation technology has ramped up, so has the construction of new testing facilities. Two years ago, Toyota began operations at its Intelligent Transport System Proving Ground, an 8.6-acre facility in Susono City, Japan. It mimics an urban environment with “faithfully replicated roads and traffic signals.” And automotive suppliers Continental’s Safety Park Alzenau and Autoliv’s Vargarda facility also re-create different real-world road environments.

But AstaZero’s almost 500 acres, which includes more than 61 acres of paved surfaces, dwarfs those facilities. On site is a 3.5-mile highway, a four-block city environment, winding rural roads and multilane roads. Bus stops, bike lanes, lighting and signage are also included. Volvo said that AstaZero designed the test track for studying the way cars interact with moving obstacles such as other cars, pedestrians, cycles, mopeds, motorcycles, trucks, buses and even animals that suddenly appear.” And in tests that involve “complex traffic situations and high speeds, robots will operate the test vehicles,” the automaker added.

Volvo said its work at the proving ground would also include development and testing of self-driving technology, as well as systems to help prevent driver distraction and fatigue. While Volvo is a founding partner, AstaZero says it is open to any automaker, university or other research groups conducting safety tests.

“Safety testing under realistic circumstances is a prerequisite for developing our active safety systems,” Anders Axelson of Volvo’s Safety Centre added. “Not only will it help us meet our safety vision, developing cars that don’t crash, it will also help us further develop safety functions that will address non-motorists, such as pedestrians and cyclists.”

[Source: Volvo]

Aug 22, 2014 7:05AM
Thank you Volvo! Could you please mentor GM on this? And for that matter, all other manufacturers that do not place safety above profit.
Aug 26, 2014 4:32AM

This is one of the main reasons I drive a Volvo.


Aug 26, 2014 5:46AM

Better put real drivers in the cars...texting...eating...DUI...reading...doing hair/nails...shaving...smoking...changing CD/ canked to "11"...speeding...weaving in and out of traffic...dark tint...with sunglasses on in rain/at night...

And a couple cars on road 40-50 years cutting in and out within inches of your bumpers...

Aug 26, 2014 7:18AM
Ford couldn't make a go of selling safety back in the 1950s and Volvo would not sell enough cars in to be profitable. Geely which is a Chinese company now owns them and we all know how much the Chinese care about safety of people.
Aug 26, 2014 11:20AM
I still have my 1991 Volvo 240 with 263K miles and has never been in the shop overnight.
Aug 26, 2014 10:01AM
This is why we are on our third Volvo, a 2015 Volvo V60R.
Aug 26, 2014 2:27PM
40yrs in automotive and every time I hear the word Intelligent I cringe. 
Aug 26, 2014 3:56AM
Aug 26, 2014 12:41PM
Computers and robots can not compare to the human mind and natural occurrences. This is only helpful to reduce, not eliminate death by car. It's nice to think safe but when cars become basic links in a mass transit autonomous system we will be thinking gee, should've went with the monorail. 
Aug 26, 2014 5:42AM

Probably don't have to worry about profit margins...don't have to pay workers health insurance...if workers laid off they get unemployment insurance...most things government subsidized there to keep costs reasonable...

Share the patents of safety equipment...or give them away if you are so concerned about safety...

can't put a price on life, right?

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