AstaZero’s inauguration on 21 August will mean that the world’s first full-scale test environment for future road safety has been put into operation. The facility, which has a total area of 2,000,000 square metres, accommodates a range of realistically constructed, continuous traffic environments such as highways, urban environments and a high speed track. Besides its size, the facility in Borås differs from other test arenas in that it enables tests based on communication between vehicle and surroundings.
All kinds of traffic and all traffic situations – on open roads and in town
The AstaZero facility enables the creation of different traffic scenarios in common traffic environments. At AstaZero it will be possible to perform a large number of tests: testing of driverless traffic, registration of the driver’s eye and steering movements, automatic braking in the event of sudden incidents such as a child running out in front of the car or hazards such as an elk suddenly appearing in the road, cyclists making turns, rapidly braking vehicles in front, the vehicle’s dynamic properties at high speeds.
AstaZero comprises a drop-shaped high speed track, called the drop. The track includes a four-lane motorway which is 1 km long including acceleration section. Among other things, lane changes and different collision scenarios are tested here. In total the drop is over 500 metres in diameter.
The facility also has an urban environment made up of blocks. Its use is primarily aimed at ascertaining how the car interacts with the surrounding environment: buses, cyclists, pedestrians, etc.
In addition, there is a 5.6 kilometre highway. Highways are monotonous and the risk of the driver losing concentration is higher here than in, for example, urban driving. AstaZero’s highway includes various obstacles, such as animals crossing the traffic lane. The highway is largely used for tests in driver behaviour.
A crucial step towards the zero vision in traffic
Every year 1.2 million people are killed in traffic globally, and between 20 and 50 million people are injured. The costs for medical care for those who are affected by traffic accidents is enormous and the number of accidents in traffic is expected to double by 2030. Traffic accidents will then be the fifth most common cause of death. AstaZero is a crucial step in achieving the vision of zero dead or seriously injured in traffic.
Active safety systems are tested at AstaZero. Active safety entails avoiding collisions and other incidents before they occur. The systems are based on equipping vehicles and infrastructure with technology which enables vehicles to communicate with each other and with the surrounding traffic environment. It might involve combining sensor technology, vehicle communication and vehicle computers.
Passive safety systems such as seat belts and air bags provide protection when an actual collision occurs, active safety systems are being developed that prevent collisions and other incidents occurring at all. Some concrete examples are cars which warn vehicles behind of slippery road surfaces, distraction alarms which warn if a driver’s eyes leave the road for a long period, or automatic braking systems if an elk suddenly runs out in front of the car.
Besides testing, AstaZero will also be used for customers’ research and development (R&D). For example, AstaZero can be used as an external development department for entire R&D projects. Researchers and traffic experts engaged in increasing safety for cyclists and pedestrians can also derive substantial benefit from the facility.
AstaZero provides driverless driving in roadworthy environments
The development of technology for driverless vehicles has come a long way and AstaZero will enable the development to take further steps forward. One example of tests with driverless vehicles is a test car that drives itself. Suddenly the robotically-controlled vehicle dummy in front reduces its speed sharply and at the same time the self-driving car has to have time to brake.
Owners, financiers and customers
AstaZero is an international arena for future road safety, open for vehicle manufacturers, suppliers, legislators, universities and colleges from all over the world and the facility’s different environments entail a unique opportunity for research, development and certification of future road safety systems.
The name AstraZero stands for Active Safety Test Area and Zero, which refers to the Swedish Parliament’s vision for road safety with zero dead or seriously injured.
The facility is located in Borås and is jointly owned by SP Technical Research Institute of Sweden and Chalmers. Official partners and financiers include AB Volvo, Volvo Cars, Autoliv, Scania, Västra Götaland Region, City of Borås, FFI, Swedish Agency for Economic and Regional Growth and Test Site Sweden.
Some of the customers that will be using AstaZero for testing of future traffic solutions are AB Volvo, Volvo Cars, Autoliv, Scania and Test Site Sweden.